The announced closing of the Indiana County court system due to the COVID-19 outbreak extends to a ban on all walk-in visitors to the Indiana County Court House, county officials said Thursday.
President Judge William Martin ordered the closing of all court facilities through April 14 — except for certain emergency and essential proceedings — as directed Wednesday by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, a part of the state Supreme Court.
The closing applies to the courthouse at 825 Philadelphia St. and to the Domestic Relations Section’s leased office space at 380 Indian Springs Road, White Township, according to Court Administrator Christy Donofrio.
The non-court offices in the courthouse, at the annex buildings at 801 Water St. and 827 Water St., and the Indiana County Children & Youth Services office at 380 Indian Springs Road would operate with minimal employees and conduct business with the public only by telephone, fax, through online forms, email and postal mail, said Chief Clerk Robin Maryai.
“We are down to a skeletal crew. Only essential workers are allowed to work,” Maryai said. “Because we’re in the courthouse, we are not open at all to public access. This is just to be safe for the employees. If you can do business over the phone, that’s what we’re doing.”
Others doing business with the courthouse, such as delivery services, could do so with clearance by the sheriff’s office, she said.
“Obviously we’re reviewing it daily,” Maryai said. “Things have changed daily in the past two or three days. We’re evaluating how to be in compliance with the governor and the courts.”
The Indiana County salary board and the Indiana County board of commissioners earlier canceled their meetings scheduled for March 24 and 25, respectively.
County-owned parks would remain open to visitors, but gathering places such as pavilions and lodges would be closed.
At the recommendation of Indiana County Parks Executive Director Ed Patterson, the parks office would refund fees paid by anyone who reserved any park facilities or offer to reschedule the reservations for a later date.
Maryai urged voters to register for the election or to apply for absentee ballots online.
The status of the Pennsylvania Primary, now set for April 28, remains under discussion by state officials, Maryai said.
“I’m trying to prepare as if it will be April 28, but there is some talk of a change,” she said.
The county courts would operate as required for certain essential functions, including emergency bail review, bench warrant hearings, juvenile delinquency detention, protection-from-abuse hearings, emergency petitions for child custody, civil mental health reviews, certain criminal case pleas and sentences and “any pleading or hearing relating to public health concerns and involving immediate and irreparable harm,” according to Martin’s order.
The magisterial district courts would be idle except for issuing search warrants, emergency protection from abuse hearings, preliminary arraignments, criminal case filings and preliminary hearings for incarcerated defendants.
“All court orders and local rules of court that address time requirements, time limitations, or filing deadlines are tolled until further order of the court,” Martin wrote. “All statewide procedural and administrative rules involving time calculations within the 40th Judicial District (Indiana County) for the filing of documents or taking of judicially mandated action are suspended until further order of court.”