Linn, Johnson County courthouses restrict public access because of coronavirus

Only those needing emergency orders, appearing in criminal proceedings or hearings will be allowed inside

Linn County Courthouse in Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Linn County Courthouse in Cedar Rapids. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

Because of the COVID-19 crisis, the Linn and Johnson County courthouses, starting this week, will not allow the public inside, except those needing emergency orders such as protective orders and involuntary commitments.

Sixth Judicial District Chief Judge Patrick Grady issued the order late Friday for Linn County and Monday for Johnson County.

People needing a domestic abuse protective order or attending a domestic abuse hearing or an involuntary commitment order for someone with mental health or substance abuse issues will be allowed in the courthouses. Anyone citing either reason may bring one nonlawyer with them.

Other individuals allowed access, Grady ordered, will be those seeking emergency orders for hospitalization, elder abuse and dependent adult proceedings; those seeking motions to quash garnishments of wages; and landlord/tenant hearings in which the landlord alleges the tenant poses a clear and present danger.

Some of these proceedings also require two individuals to attend, and they will be allowed.

Grady, in his order, said anyone who needs to electronically file documents on the public computers in a court civil or criminal case, and who needs to drop off payments or other documents in the clerk’s drop boxes, may have access. 

Those attending magistrate court for initial appearances, turning themselves in on a warrant or needing to go before a judge for an initial appearance in associate District Court also will be allowed to enter, but they cannot bring another person with them.

Others allowed in the courthouses will be those who need to appear for a criminal plea or sentencing hearing.

All these individuals will be directed to the court clerk’s office when they arrive. Nobody under age 16 will be allowed, unless they are a defendant in a criminal case or traffic court.

Grady said people should tell court security at the entrances why they are in the courthouses, and they may be directed to call the clerk’s or county attorney’s office.

People coming into the buildings also will have their temperature taken with a digital thermometer and/or asked health screening questions.

Linn County and Johnson County sheriff’s deputies have the discretion to refuse entry to people showing signs of sickness or who do not comply with Grady’s order.

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