By Dave Taylor
The Hancock County Judicial Center is reopening on June 1 with plenty of restrictions and plenty of changes to how things have always been done. In fact, it might not even be accurate to say it’s reopening, at least not to the public.
“Due to the safety guidelines that remain in place, we will only allow one person in the building at a time,” said Circuit Clerk Mike Boling. “Because our lobby and the main lobby to the courthouse are both, relatively speaking, small, and it’s going to be difficult for us to safely manage it any other way.”
And whoever enters must wear a face mask.
“There’s no exceptions to that,” he said. “If a person comes and they do not have a mask we won’t be allowed to let them in.”
The courts take that rule seriously too.
“If a person has a scheduled date for a criminal offense and they refuse to wear a mask and come in the building, the judge does have the discretion to possibly issue a warrant,” he said.
The one person allowed in the building won’t be just anyone wandering in either, but they must be there on official business or to make a court-ordered appearance.
Things like license renewals will be done one at a time, and if there are several people who arrive at once, they’ll be put on a list or leave their phone number to be called when it’s their turn.
“Now since there’s only going to be one person allowed in at a time, make sure to bring any documents that you think you need…” he said. “I’d hate for somebody to come in and hen be standing and waiting and then not be able to pay for it, which means we wouldn’t be able to get it done.”
Payments are cash or check only.
A grace period for people whose licenses have expired remains in place, so even though people can now renew, there won’t be consequences any time soon for those who don’t.
“The governor’s grace period, which he issued way back in March, all the way through at least June 15th is still in effect, so there’s no need to make a mad rush down to the courthouse,” he said.
For teenagers hoping to get a driver’s permit, there’s potential good news. But for those wanting to take their driving test, the news isn’t so good.
“As far as permits and driver’s testing itself, both the written and the actual testing itself, that still is in limbo,” he said. “I know that the written permit test, that is closer to getting restarted than the actual driving test is, because the big thing with the driver’s test is that it’s impossible to social distance inside of a car.”
Written testing might be moved to regional location like Owensboro, he said, as long as there is room for everyone to space out.
“Unfortunately the driver’s testing itself, I’m afraid that could be a while longer,” he said.
All trials have been moved back to August, and the courts are working on ways to keep the public trials available to the public, including showing them online.
“They’ve been kicking around ideas about YouTube and livestreaming…” he said.
Boling’s office has been using a 50/50 shift to keep half of the workers at home while the others work in order to prevent the coronavirus from spreading to the entire crew, but that means he’s short-staffed every day.
“I’m operating my office with only two people in it instead of the normal five,” he said.
“I know a few people have been frustrated, which I completely understand,” he said. “But everybody’s been very cordial and respectful to us and I greatly appreciate it. And because of that I’m going to make sure that we get everybody taken care of as fast as humanly possible.”
For questions regarding the Judicial Center, Boling asks the public to call his office or even his cell phone at 270.929.9748.
“I’d rather people call me and get the straight answer than rely on word of mouth or rumors or not have correct information,” he said.