OUR VIEW: A Judicious Partnership

 

OUR VIEW: A Judicious Partnership

 

The City of Laurens is to be commended for allowing Laurens County to use The Ridge.

The city’s indoor recreation center is the Laurens County Magistrate’s Court, allowing the judges to deal with cases backlogged because of COVID-19. You may find it strange to have court at a basketball court; but the arrangement works well, the Laurens County Council was told Aug. 11.

When the Coronavirus-COVID-19 Crisis struck South Carolina in mid-March, one of the first things to shut down was court. This was at the direction of Chief Justice Donald Beatty, and it made sense. Court is a very close-quarters operation.

All medical evidence from this fast-moving virus says that people in close contact with each other are at risk - they are “sprayed” with droplets as people near them talk, cough and breath. These droplets are the transmission mechanism for the virus, and the very serious illness it can cause, COVID-19. It’s like the Flu in means of transmission, but much, much more dangerous, scientists have found. Plus, in court, lawyers are constantly talking - thus, constantly “spraying.” The Chief Justice had no choice but to suspend court.

However, with that as common knowledge, the criminals certainly did not take a break. They just were not seeing “their day in court.” Justice officials studied the situation and found they needed a “test case” - in steps Laurens County.

The first part of August, Laurens County’s Hillcrest Square Judicial Center played host to the first term of General Sessions (criminal) court of the Coronavirus-COVID-19 Crisis. Justice Beatty could not have found a better jurist than Circuit Court Judge Don Hocker to preside. That put Laurens County in the spotlight - cleaning crews met very strict protocols, the Clerk of Court’s Office did a wonderful job handling jurors, and about 300 people were looked at as potential murder trial jurors. They completed their task in 7 days (with a guilty verdict).

Only one problem. To give Criminal Court social-distancing space, Magistrate’s Court had to move out. And into, The Ridge.

Judges and staff there have made a considerable dent in the local judicial backlog. The Ridge staff has been cooperative, and the Laurens County Sheriff’s Office has provided security for both buildings. At Hillcrest, the protocols have included temperature-checks and masks, in addition to the normal metal-detection and prohibition of cellphones in the courtroom. Law students came to Laurens to watch the trial; and judicial officials gauged what to do, and what not to do, as court possibly could re-open throughout South Carolina.

Without The Ridge, the whole process would have been very difficult.

That is why Laurens County Council Chairman Dr. David Pitts has directed the administration to compose a Letter of Commendation to the City of Laurens. The County also is asking the City to allow court-use of The Ridge for September, as well. Another trial started in Hillcrest on Aug. 18. 

We certainly join the county in sending commendation to our county seat - the City of Laurens. They have stepped up, to keep the wheels of justice grinding and to keep us safer from people of ill intent.

My Clinton News

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