The coronavirus pandemic has thrown a knot into the workings of Lake Havasu City Municipal Court that may end up taking several months to untangle.
City Magistrate, Judge Mitchell Kalauli, said the court has had to make some adjustments during the social distancing era including limiting access to the lobby and curbing access to courtrooms.
“We have had to go online with a lot of things, and we have had to continue all of our jury trials,” Kalauli said. “That is the one where all of the courts are kind of struggling with how to do jury trials because inevitably you have to have a large number of people in a small area. So we are still trying to work through that.”
Kalauli said continuing all the jury trials will be the court’s biggest challenge, but the backlog will likely continue to build until the end of June or early July. The municipal court’s lease with Mohave County only gives it access to one courtroom. So catching back up afterwards will be a challenge – one Kalauli said the court is still figuring out how to address.
“July, August, September, even into October we are going to be slammed with all of these matters that we have had to push out a little bit further,” he said. “We don’t have the space to do all of that. So how that works out with some of the rules and constitutional issues, we will have to take as it comes. But it could cause some issues.”
Although the State of Arizona as a whole is starting to open back up following the stay-at-home orders, Kalauli said the courts are operating under a different timeline. He said access to the courthouse is expected to remain limited for some time yet.
“We just received an administrative order which will take effect June 1 which will require anybody that comes into the courthouse to have a face covering,” he said. “They are also working on trying to figure out how to do jury selection. There are rules governing whether or not people can appear in person, by video, or by some other technology, and the number of people you can have in a courtroom at any given time. So there are still a lot of limits on the courts that, even as Arizona opens up, we won’t be following that exactly along with the rest of the state.”