Woodbury County Courthouse deals with backlog of cases created by COVID-19

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SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – In response to COVID-19, local courts were mandated to implement precautionary measures aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus which resulted in cases being delayed or rescheduled.

This is the first week the Woodbury County Courthouse has allowed in-person hearings of non-emergency matters, like evictions.

One judge tells KCAU 9 the court is now busy addressing those cases, along with emergency hearings that were never postponed.

Duane Hoffmeyer is Chief Judge of the 3rd Judicial District.

He said the Woodbury County Courthouse is making progress addressing the backlog in cases.

KCAU 9 asked the court just how many cases were affected by COVID-19 delays, but the court was unable to provide that information.

Hoffmeyer said priority hearings being held in person were domestic abuse hearings and custody cases.

“Custody cases have priority. They’re behind the criminal ones, but there’s no doubt that our inability to have in-person hearings to decide these custody disputes to decide where children should live have been impacting many lives, and we’re well aware of that,” Hoffmeyer added.

Mental health and substance abuse cases were held via telephone or virtually to help eliminate some of the backlogs.

The judge also said civil cases have been impacted the most as they are a lower priority.

Angie Schneiderman is an attorney who focuses primarily on civil litigation. She said some of her cases have been pushed back about 6 months.

“It has created more of a backlog. Sometimes, it changes the tone of a case a little bit. There’s some things that I thought we could get settled, but with the trial date moving, it decreases the desire to settle sometimes. But, it’s one of those situations you deal with what comes and roll with the punches,” Schneiderman added.

She said although some of her cases are scheduled, she is preparing for possible postponements as some of the cases have pending since March.

Judge Hoffmeyer said when jury trials begin again in September, priority will go to criminal defendants in custody who have demanded their right to a speedy trial.

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