Douglas County Court adjusts to court staff working from home after COVID-19 case

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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) -- For the first time, we're getting an inside look at how Douglas County Court is operating when someone is arrested and has a right to see a judge quickly.

This comes at a time when many courthouse staffers are scrambling to their homes after an employee was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Government employees are also being asked to work from home. And now we're starting to see a number of attorneys, judges and court staff doing the same thing.

The Douglas County Attorney’s Office on the bottom floor of the courthouse is closed after one of its lawyers tested positive for the coronavirus.

"Very limited action around here," said Eric Sellers.

The courthouse remains open but today it looks like a ghost town.

Capt. Eric Sellers with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said, “It seems that once that scare came into the building, no one wants to be inside. We’re just dealing with that right now.”

Some courtrooms are quarantined since the Deputy County Attorney with COVID-19 had been working a case there recently.

Several judges posted signs that they’re still doing the people’s business, but doing the work from home.

Don Kleine, Douglas County Attorney said, “Everyone is still working whether they are home or not.”

Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine is working from home while his offices at the courthouse get a deep cleaning.

“The judges have methods of teleconferencing people by phone or zoom. So we can do it remotely when possible,” said Kleine.

Before yesterday, several attorneys had already been working remotely, so they’ll be able to handle cases at the courthouse in person if need be, while other staffers who had contact with the positive coronavirus case self-isolate for 14-days.

At courtroom 50 at the Douglas County Jail, the only people physically there in jail court – the defendant and correction officers.

The judge, the state, and the defense are usually there too but not with the coronavirus scare.

They are in a third-floor courtroom at the courthouse. The defendants are on their TV – and vice versa.

This is the second day of video conferencing bond hearings, a method likely to spill into other areas of a justice system trying to juggle the rights of the defendant’s and the safety of everyone involved.

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