Rule 7-14. Procedures Governing Emergency Modified Court Operations

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionPDF versionPDF version

Rule 7-14. Procedures Governing Emergency Modified Court Operations

   The purpose of this Rule is to develop a continuity of operations “plan” to ensure the continued functioning of the District Court in the event that an emergency threatens or incapacitates court operations and alternative court operations, including the relocation of selected personnel and functions to an alternate facility, is required.

   A. In the event of a natural disaster, widespread pandemic, essential utility failure, hazardous material incident, major civil disturbance, terrorist incident, or any other event or circumstance which threatens the ongoing business of the Court, or the use of courtroom facilities, the contents of this rule shall be referenced and implemented.

   B. In the event such situation exists, as referenced in Paragraph A above, it will be the responsibility of the District judges, with the ultimate decision to be made by the presiding District judge, to determine when emergency modified court operations should go into effect, and ultimately, when normal court operations should resume. Criteria for making these decisions shall include, but not be limited to:

   1. Consultation with the Nebraska Supreme Court, the Nebraska State Court Administrator, the county judges of the Seventh Judicial District, and any other presiding district or county court judge in the State of Nebraska;

   2. Consideration of recommendations from local, state and national health departments or officials;

   3. Necessary and relevant input from any courthouse officials, including members of the county board of commissioners, the county attorney, the county public defender, county law enforcement officials, the courthouse building maintenance supervisor, and any other local or state executive officer, fire and rescue official, hospital representative, or emergency management official which the judges of the District Court deem necessary; and

   4. Input from leadership representatives and members of the local bar association.

   C. The following list of judicial stakeholders shall be consulted by the District Court judges, at their discretion, when planning and implementing any emergency modified court operations:

   1. County attorney;

   2. County public defender;

   3. Local bar association representatives;

   4. District Court clerk;

   5. Local county board of commissioners;

   6. Courthouse and community law enforcement officials;

   7. Courthouse jailer;

   8. Judicial staff; and

   9. Local Probation Office.

   D. It shall be the responsibility of the presiding District Court judge, or any other individual designated by the presiding District Court judge, to coordinate and facilitate communication with those judicial stakeholders, as listed in Paragraph C above, in order to plan and implement any emergency modified court operation plan which is deemed necessary for the continued administration of law and justice, for the benefit of the general public.

   E. Mission Essential Functions is hereby defined as any function that is essential to the operation of the Court for the administration of justice and the affording of constitutional rights that cannot be deferred for more than a 30-day period. Any function not deemed “mission essential” shall be deferred, as per order of the District Court, until additional personnel and resources become available. The following functions are deemed Mission Essential Functions:

   1. Determinations of probable cause and the setting of bonds in criminal cases;

   2. Preliminary hearings for individuals charged with felony offenses and who are unable to post bond;

   3. Detention hearings for juvenile offenders.

   4. Domestic abuse protection order hearings, harassment protection order hearings, and sexual assault protection order hearings;

   5. Hearings to determine good cause for the continuation of a criminal jury trial when a defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial has not been previously waived; and

   6. Habeas corpus hearings;

   7. Additionally, the District Court judges shall determine when and under what circumstances that any mission essential or nonessential function may occur, including, but not limited to, the following:

   a. Changing the location where any hearing or function is to occur;

   b. Changing the date/time where any hearing or function is to occur; and

   c. Allowing any function or hearing to occur by means of audio and/or videoconferencing technology, which is not in violation of any individual’s statutory or constitutional rights.

   F. Viable alternative facilities may be needed to relocate staff when an emergency threatens or incapacitates court operations, or when court hearings/trials need to occur at a facility or location outside the County courthouse or District courtroom. In that event, the presiding District judge shall make arrangements for other facilities to be contacted and designated for such use, and also to make arrangements for any compensation necessary for such matters. Additionally, the presiding District judge shall keep and maintain an up-to-date list of any and all local contacts and potential facilities that may need to be utilized for such purposes. The presiding District Court judge may designate the responsibilities under this paragraph to any person he/she deems necessary for carrying out the duties outlined herein.

   G. In the event that any emergency modified court operations are necessary, the Clerk of the District Court, or any person he/she might so designate, shall be responsible for notifying any and all court users, legal counsel, interpreters, and jurors, as well as the general public, concerning the necessity of emergency modified court operations, how any future mission essential or nonessential functions of the Court will occur, and when these are discontinued and normal court operations will resume. This will occur by the use of any postal, internet, telephone, news/media outlet, or any other form of information dissemination which the District Court Clerk deems reasonable and necessary in order to convey this information.

Approved March 23, 2022.