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Quietly, Langlade court business continues
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Monday afternoon is typically the most hectic segment of the week for Langlade County Circuit Court.

Proceedings often run from 1 to 5 p.m., with minimal breaks, involving dozens of cases with individuals both appearing in person and via video from the jail.

The cases include folks learning initial bond terms, awaiting public defender representation, entering not guilty pleas, waiving preliminary hearing time limits, appealing for reduced bond amounts, and more, but restrictions due to the coronavirus have changed all that.

This week, only four cases were called, and the entire docket took barely 30 minutes. Attorneys and defendants appeared by telephone, and one on the jail video. The usually crowded courtroom featured only Judge John Rhode, flanked by clerk Tina Wild and reporter Joan O'Connor, and deputy Travis Krueger in the back for court security.

In two instances, defendants on the schedule arrived to the courtroom in person. Judge Rhode asked that those people leave the room so he could call them on their cell phones, adhering to the new rules.

For one of those cases, the defendant, his attorney, and the prosecuting attorney all conferenced in via telephone. Add switchboard operator to the list of Judge Rhode's duties.

These changes, clearly a response to the virus outbreak, are the latest incarnation of county circuit court as dictated by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. On Sunday, the Supreme Court released a new directive that all in-person proceedings be suspended through April 30. There are exceptions for situations if remote technology is not adequate, but that is not the case here, as Monday's phone and video hearings were accomplished without issue.

The Supreme Court also announced that all criminal and civil jury trials scheduled to begin from now through May 22 will be rescheduled until after that date.

For the time being, Judge Rhode intends to maintain his physical seat on the bench to keep the court's business running as smoothly as possible under the current guidelines.

“We are trying to keep some things going here at the courthouse so there is not such a huge backlog when all of this is over,” Rhode said. “For now, unless ordered to do otherwise, I will continue to come to work and preside from the court room because that is easier on everyone else and I really don't have to have close contact with very many people anyway.”

The judge also discussed his duty to lead the court, and addressed the relationship between court process and the jail population.

“I am asking everyone to stay calm and be flexible during this difficult time,” Rhode continued. “We are trying to accomodate requests from the jail to keep their population down and everyone healthy while also keeping our community safe. I heard a good quote from a corrections officer union representative in response to calls in some areas to empty out the jails. He said ‘we cannot solve a public health crisis by creating a public safety crisis.' I agree with that.”

While Judge Rhode stays firmly on his bench, District Attorney Elizabeth Gebert, Assistant District Attorney Kelly Hays, and their staff are conducting business from home. One staff member remains in the D.A.'s office to answer phones.

“My staff and I are able to work from home with complete functionality,” Gebert explained. “In many ways, it's business as usual, just from a remote location. All attorneys have been given permission by the court to appear by phone for any hearings that can be held.”

Gebert also echoed Rhode's sentiments in regards to keeping the business of county court functioning, and not just for defendants.

“At this point, there will be initial appearances for any new in-custody arrests and some additional hearings, particularly for individuals who are being held in the Langlade County jail, to try to keep the court from completely coming to a standstill,” she said. “Victim-witness services will still be functioning and the assigned prosecutor can be contacted by reaching out to Victim-Witness Coordinator Alisha Resch.”

While Monday afternoon was quite different, Gebert did describe the morning as “fairly typical.” Those mornings are always filled with status conferences for ongoing cases, many transpiring in the small second floor courtroom. This week, those conferences were still accomplished, but in advance via email.

The justice system is one of the pillars of American democracy. Even if technology should break down, a Monday memo from Chief Judge Greg Huber notes that exceptions to the in-person rule will continue to apply.

Those exceptions include bail hearings and initial appearances, preliminary hearings and other selected hearings for in-custody defendants, petitions for restraining orders, and guardianship and temporary physical custody petitions.


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Quietly, Langlade court business continues
space
Monday afternoon is typically the most hectic segment of the week for Langlade County Circuit Court.

Proceedings often run from 1 to 5 p.m., with minimal breaks, involving dozens of cases with individuals both appearing in person and via video from the jail.

The cases include folks learning initial bond terms, awaiting public defender representation, entering not guilty pleas, waiving preliminary hearing time limits, appealing for reduced bond amounts, and more, but restrictions due to the coronavirus have changed all that.

This week, only four cases were called, and the entire docket took barely 30 minutes. Attorneys and defendants appeared by telephone, and one on the jail video. The usually crowded courtroom featured only Judge John Rhode, flanked by clerk Tina Wild and reporter Joan O'Connor, and deputy Travis Krueger in the back for court security.

In two instances, defendants on the schedule arrived to the courtroom in person. Judge Rhode asked that those people leave the room so he could call them on their cell phones, adhering to the new rules.

For one of those cases, the defendant, his attorney, and the prosecuting attorney all conferenced in via telephone. Add switchboard operator to the list of Judge Rhode's duties.

These changes, clearly a response to the virus outbreak, are the latest incarnation of county circuit court as dictated by the Wisconsin Supreme Court. On Sunday, the Supreme Court released a new directive that all in-person proceedings be suspended through April 30. There are exceptions for situations if remote technology is not adequate, but that is not the case here, as Monday's phone and video hearings were accomplished without issue.

The Supreme Court also announced that all criminal and civil jury trials scheduled to begin from now through May 22 will be rescheduled until after that date.

For the time being, Judge Rhode intends to maintain his physical seat on the bench to keep the court's business running as smoothly as possible under the current guidelines.

“We are trying to keep some things going here at the courthouse so there is not such a huge backlog when all of this is over,” Rhode said. “For now, unless ordered to do otherwise, I will continue to come to work and preside from the court room because that is easier on everyone else and I really don't have to have close contact with very many people anyway.”

The judge also discussed his duty to lead the court, and addressed the relationship between court process and the jail population.

“I am asking everyone to stay calm and be flexible during this difficult time,” Rhode continued. “We are trying to accomodate requests from the jail to keep their population down and everyone healthy while also keeping our community safe. I heard a good quote from a corrections officer union representative in response to calls in some areas to empty out the jails. He said ‘we cannot solve a public health crisis by creating a public safety crisis.' I agree with that.”

While Judge Rhode stays firmly on his bench, District Attorney Elizabeth Gebert, Assistant District Attorney Kelly Hays, and their staff are conducting business from home. One staff member remains in the D.A.'s office to answer phones.

“My staff and I are able to work from home with complete functionality,” Gebert explained. “In many ways, it's business as usual, just from a remote location. All attorneys have been given permission by the court to appear by phone for any hearings that can be held.”

Gebert also echoed Rhode's sentiments in regards to keeping the business of county court functioning, and not just for defendants.

“At this point, there will be initial appearances for any new in-custody arrests and some additional hearings, particularly for individuals who are being held in the Langlade County jail, to try to keep the court from completely coming to a standstill,” she said. “Victim-witness services will still be functioning and the assigned prosecutor can be contacted by reaching out to Victim-Witness Coordinator Alisha Resch.”

While Monday afternoon was quite different, Gebert did describe the morning as “fairly typical.” Those mornings are always filled with status conferences for ongoing cases, many transpiring in the small second floor courtroom. This week, those conferences were still accomplished, but in advance via email.

The justice system is one of the pillars of American democracy. Even if technology should break down, a Monday memo from Chief Judge Greg Huber notes that exceptions to the in-person rule will continue to apply.

Those exceptions include bail hearings and initial appearances, preliminary hearings and other selected hearings for in-custody defendants, petitions for restraining orders, and guardianship and temporary physical custody petitions.


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