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TEXARKANA, Ark. — The COVID-19 pandemic has led to closing the Miller County courthouse near downtown Texarkana, and in Arkansas courtrooms the wheels of justice continue to turn at a slower pace.

Last month the Arkansas Supreme Court began issuing orders meant to stem the spread of the new coronavirus. An order issued Friday states that jury summonses for Arkansas citizens are suspended through June 30.

The suspension of in-person, non-essential hearings is continued through May 1 and may be extended. Essential hearings, such as juvenile detention hearings, hearings for persons in jail and protective order hearings, will continue. When possible, those hearings may be conducted via the use of technology.

Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Potter Barrett said a criminal docket scheduled for in-custody defendants Tuesday before Circuit Judge Carlton Jones will be held at the Miller County jail as scheduled, but the inmates will not enter the courtroom. Instead they will appear on a video screen in the courtroom where the judge, prosecutor and defense attorney will be present.

Non-essential hearings may continue using of technology as well.

"For the duration of this order, judges may exercise their discretion to conduct proceedings that do not require in-person appearances or in-person proceedings suspended as a result of this order, by teleconferencing, video conferencing, or other available technology," the order states.

The Miller County courthouse was closed to visitors last week because a courthouse staffer tested positively for the virus, Miller County Judge Cathy Harrison announced Friday. Offices will continue to function and anyone with questions should contact the relevant office by telephone.

Speedy trial requirements are considered suspended for "good cause" during the pandemic.

More orders are expected.

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