A new round of courthouse closures
December 4, 2020
The orders begin similarly, “In consideration of the Fourth Emergency Joint Order, 2020 OK 96 as issued jointly by the Oklahoma Supreme Court and the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, the continued rise of COVID-19 cases, and the predicted rise of infections” … and proceed with various closure announcements for courts across the state.
We checked in with a few OBA members to see how the December round of closures affects their practices and clients.
Aaron Arnall is a family law attorney in Midwest City with Crosthwaite Law Firm and chair of the OBA Technology Committee. He said the closures are a bit like the movie Groundhog Day referring to similar closures that began in March of 2020. “It’s hard. Especially for my clients, who expect some sort of resolution, or at least progress, with their cases. If you can’t get anything worked out with opposing counsel, the closures have left cases in limbo until you can get into court again.”
On the bright side, Arnall says it’s nice not having to wear a suit everyday, but he misses seeing colleagues as frequently as he used to.
Rebecca J. King, partner, King & Winningham, said she could not survive without her wonderful staff. “I am forever grateful for their continued help and support as we navigate through this.” She said her office has fully utilized its PracticePanther software that has helped with efficiency in sending texts, emails and updating calendars to clients about closures, and then again with rescheduling. Still, she said it’s tough.
“Clients are generally understanding, but are certainly frustrated (especially in those instances of not having access to remedy from the Courts within their statutory time). Many are facing illness, loss, layoffs, childcare issues, and just the current general anxiety present in day-to-day life. It’s difficult not always having the full answer to many of their concerns. Client calls or appointments that would typically take 10 minutes for a quick case update are taking much longer, but I feel like I have been engaging with my clients more based on that additional time spent checking in on them. The natural drawback is the result of less time to deal with more substantive work when my days are spent speaking with clients and updating them with what is effectively ‘there is no update,’” said King.
Rachel Morris, senior attorney, Evans & Davis, said attitude is everything, especially during a global pandemic. “I have a letter board in my office. For most of 2020, it read, ‘It may pass like a kidney stone, but this too shall pass.’ Luckily, my clients have been rolling with the punches fairly well for most of this insane year. The December/January closings at least come at a time where most folks have other obligations to keep them occupied. The Covid numbers are nothing short of terrifying, and bumping a hearing a few weeks is the least we can do to stop the spread,” said Morris.
“The legal community has always been a tight-knit group; and, for the most part, I think we have only grown closer during this pandemic. It’s important to remember the words of John Lennon and Paul McCarty (and made even more famous by Joe Crocker) that we
“get by with a little help from [our] friends.”
Rebecca J King
King & Winningham