Due to an influx of COVID-19 cases in the Comanche County Courthouse, beginning Monday, there will be a return to safety protocols from earlier this year, including closure to courts until Jan. 4, 2021.
District Judge Scott D. Meaders, who tested negative for coronavirus last week, is not affected but is in precautionary quarantine.
“Our office is taking precautions,” Meaders said.
Special District Judge Susan Zwaan and several lawyers and staff have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to District Judge Emmitt Tayloe.
Following that development, Tayloe said all judicial offices and the Court Clerk’s office have been closed to the public and all hearings conducted in the courtroom are under enforcement of mask and social distancing protocols.
“We have closed all Comanche County district courts to anything other than virtual hearings with the exception of protective orders and arraignments until Jan. 4, 2021,” he said.
For the cases Zwaan was slated to preside over, Special District Judge Grant Sheperd will take over the duties. For Meaders’ caseload, Tayloe, Presiding District Judge Gerald Neuwirth and District Judge Irma Newburn will assume the role, according to Tayloe.
Although the entire of the courthouse has not been formally closed to the public, the Comanche County Commissioners will have a closed special meeting at 9 a.m. Monday with all elected county officials to discuss complete closure of the courthouse.
“This is a significant decision and I want to make sure the taxpayers are treated equally and we (county elected officials) are all on the same sheet of music in regards to closing the courthouse,” Comanche County District 2 Commissioner Johnny Owens said Friday.
Following the earlier protocols instituted this year, judges will post the day’s continuances and following hearing dates to the courthouse doors and it will be up to the defendants to show up and follow up for the information.
After over two months of precautionary procedures that ended June 1, Neuwirth believes it offered a good run to know what works and how to implement it.
“We’re better suited to handle it for now,” he said.
— Additional reporting by Chris Wilson, staff.
— — Story has been updated after Judge Tayloe contacted The Constitution to correct the initial information he provided about the date the court's closure extends.