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Clark County District Court and the Clark County Bar Association (CCBA) provided an informational presentation for the benefit of attorneys to bring us up to speed on court operations. Judges Kelli Osler and Kristen Parcher conducted the session on May 15, 2020 as a Zoom chat. Remotely attending attorneys were allowed to submit questions in writing at the conclusion of the judges’ presentation. The session was recorded. Presumably a recording of the video presentation may be obtained from the CCBA or court operations. Briefly, below is the author’s take on some of the things shared by the judges.

Clark County District Court civil matters have been largely on hold due to the quarantine, but as of June 1, 2020, District Court will be holding civil hearings virtually or telephonically. For further details, see the Court Closure section of the Clark County District Court website.

The court is operating now under its 3rd version of a COVID-19 emergency order, General Administrative Order (GAO) 2020-6.

Clark County District Court, like Clark County Superior Court, has decided to utilize the Zoom platform for its virtual hearings and bench trials. District Court also, like Superior Court, is working on tooling up to be able to utilize Dropbox as its exhibit exchange software. District Court has available a “District Court Remote Hearing Handout” as a PDF which offers Virtual Hearing Information and tips. It is a helpful, concise handout pertinent to doing Zoom hearings in both Superior and District Courts locally.

All appearing in Clark County District Court will be expected to appear by video unless they have a good technology or other sufficient excuse. The judges in their presentation suggested that when you call in to the court on Zoom, make sure that your identifying Zoom name includes your full name, first and last, and is not a nickname or just a first name, as it is easier for the courts to admit the right players in the right order into their virtual dockets if they see the full name of the person asking to be admitted into a virtual hearing.

When scheduling civil motion hearings or bench trials contact the judicial assistant of the judge that the case is assigned to in order to make sure that the proposed setting for the civil matter you want heard will actually work; since the COVID-19 court closure the judges’ usual civil motion dates have been pre-empted to some extent by catching up on non-civil dockets that, s virtual hearings, are taking longer than before. They note also that District Court has an amended case hearing notice form on its website, with a box to be checked to confirm that the hearing being requested/noticed is being done virtually, that can be used to note up hearings.

As with Clark County Superior Court, based on the most recent State Supreme Court decree, no jury trials will be held in Clark County District Court until after July 6, 2020.  And actually, whether any jury trials will really be able to occur beginning on that date or not is doubtful – the judges presenting this court update just don’t see it as likely that Clark County District Court will have the protocol figured out for safely doing a jury trial that quickly.

In conclusion, Judge Osler indicated that she has no idea what the “new normal” will be after we get on the backside of the pandemic, but she is pretty sure that social distancing and virtual hearings are likely going to be a permanent thing of the future for District Court, and for all courts going forward. She thanked everyone for their patience as the court continues to learn and adapt to the challenges that have been placed upon it by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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About the Author

William K. Thayer

Bill Thayer is one of the founding partners of the Schauermann Thayer Jacobs Staples & Edwards law firm. Bill is licensed in both Oregon and Washington, and actively practiced law from 1980 to 2021. He is now "of counsel" with Schauermann Thayer and serves as an arbitrator when appointed by the courts or litigants. During his more than 40 years of active law practice, Bill advised and represented clients in personal injury and wrongful death claims and litigation, including automobile collision, motorcycle, bicycle, and pedestrian injury and death cases, dog bite cases, construction site injury claims, and a myriad of other types of injury and death claims. While many claims were settled through negotiation or mediation, Mr. Thayer litigated, arbitrated and/or tried to verdict many cases for his clients. He continues to occasionally be appointed by courts and other lawyers to serve as an arbitrator of tort claims. Bill enjoys writing as one of his varied recreational interests when he is not working.

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