June 18 will be the first day for misdemeanor arraignments and traffic court in Iberia Parish since the COVID-19 pandemic led to restrictions on how many people could gather in one place, but those appearing in court will have to set up specific times for their appearances, 16th Judicial District Judge Suzanne de Mahy said.
Typically, de Mahy said, everyone who has been served a misdemeanor arraignment notice for a day is asked to be in the Iberia Parish Courthouse at 9 a.m. that day. But in Phase 1 of the coronavirus reopening under Gov. John Bel Edwards, there remain restrictions on the number of people who can gather in one place and social distancing requirements still keep people six feet apart.
De Mahy said the Supreme Court asked courts to limit the number of people in court at any time. Regular court hearings resumed Monday.
“Normally we have 100 to 200 people showing up at 9 a.m.,” she said. “Potentially we can only seat about 30 people in the gallery area (if they are seated) six feet apart.”
For the June 18 arraignments, there have already been 106 people scheduled to appear for hearings. De Mahy said that those who are scheduled to appear should contact her administrative assistant, Patti Boutte, at 394-2216, extension 2611, to schedule a specific time to appear.
People scheduled for a traffic ticket/summons at 9 a.m. on June 18 are asked to appear at the courthouse and go to the criminal department of the Clerk of Court’s office, located on the first floor of the Iberia Parish Courthouse, between 9 a.m. and noon on the 18th to receive further instructions.
The clerk’s office will help those who need to set up a different date to appear in court for a traffic summons, staggering the appearance times, de Mahy said. Those with questions about traffice court times should call 394-2216, extension 2611.
The judge also has set courtroom policies, effective May 7, to help people remain safe and for proper courtroom procedure. People are asked not to appear until their scheduled time. They will not be allowed into the courtroom more than 15 minutes ahead of scheduled time.
The judge also asks that those appearing wear facemasks for health reasons. Those who have facemasks will be asked to wear theirs, and those who show up without facemasks will have masks provided as they enter the building.
“I’m requiring my court personnel to wear masks,” de Mahy said.
Only parties and their attorneys of record will be allowed in the courtroom at the time of the scheduled hearing, and those appearing may be asked to provide their name and case information upon entering the courthouse. Those who are not represented by an attorney at the hearing are asked to bring their court papers with them to the courthouse. Those appearing are asked not to bring anyone with them to court except witnesses to the case, when instructed to do so by their attorney.
Witnesses must be placed on standby either outside the courthouse or at a nearby location within 15 minutes of the courthouse. Those people representing themselves (with no attorney) must have the telephone number of any witness on their person as non-attorneys are not allowed to bring cellphones into the courtroom.
Social distancing of six feet between people in court is required. Some people may be asked to wait in another courtroom or area of the courthouse or in their cars until the case is called for hearing. Those inside the courtroom are only allowed to sit in specifically marked seats.
People may be instructed by the judge to remove their masks if testifying or addressing the court, once social distancing of six feet is established.
Local court rules require that moving parties provide the opposing party with copies of all documents, video or audio recordings, photographs, text messages, emails, etc., at least 10 days prior to the hearing. The defending party is required to provide the moving party with copies of all exhibits at least seven days prior to the hearing. Those intending to introduce documents into evidence should bring the original documents and four copies to the courthouse. The original document is to be placed into evidence if admitted by the judge. The copies are for the witness, the opposing party and the judge, and multiple copies are needed to prevent originals from being handled by multiple people. All people should use hand sanitizer before passing documents to another person in the courtroom.
If the exhibit is an audio or video recording, photograph, text message or email, it cannot be on a cell phone, tablet or other computer device. Audio and video recordings must be on a flash drive, compact disc or other media that can be viewed in the courtroom and introduced into evidence.
Photographs, text messages and emails must be printed out or contained in a screen shot so they can be introduced into evidence.
Those uncomfortable being out in public, especially those at high risk of contracting the coronavirus, are asked to contact the court at 394-2216, extension 2611, to let the court know so accommodations can be made in their cases.