The 20th Judicial Circuit is now operating under Phase 1 of its plan to return to normal operations following COVID-19-related restrictions.

Presiding Judge Ike Lamke announced Friday the circuit, which covers Osage, Franklin and Gasconade counties, will begin allowing people back into the courtrooms.

Occupancy is limited to 10 people, or whenever possible, less than 10 inside courtrooms. Social distancing will be enforced.

During Phase 1, the courts are instructed to continue to use teleconferences and video hearings “in all cases where practical.” For in-person hearings, a maximum number of 10 people are required to maintain social distancing.

Attorneys, noncourt personnel and members of the public who are not involved in a scheduled court proceeding, applying for a protective order or dealing with the appointment of an attorney in a juvenile matter will not be allowed in the courthouse.

Proceedings that do not require the in-person appearance of parties or attorneys are not suspended and may continue based on the judge’s discretion.

Jury trials will not be held until Phase 2.

Based on local conditions, Phase 2 could start as early as June 1. Phase 3 could start June 15. Phase 3 would be a return to normal operations.

The notice says the court can stay in the phases for a longer period of time depending on the local conditions. It also notes the court can revert back a phase if local conditions deteriorate.

Signs will be posted at the courthouse letting people know access is limited and anyone showing signs of COVID-19 is not authorized to enter. Anyone entering the building is required to answer screening questions and take part in temperature checks.

While the courthouse is open, court personnel will wear a mask or partial cover at the courthouse. Attorneys, members of the public, and noncourt personnel also are required to wear facial coverings in the courthouse and in courtrooms unless otherwise directed by a judge.

Bailiffs do not have to wear a mask in the courtroom, unless directed to by a judge.

Some cases are still being continued for a short duration. Parties involved in court proceedings are encouraged to check with their attorneys, the prosecuting attorney, the clerk’s office or visit to access information about the status of their case.

Anyone who is due in court, but is showing symptoms of the coronavirus, should contact their attorney in order to get a continuance. Witnesses experiencing symptoms also need to contact the attorney who requested their cooperation to make arrangements.