COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina circuit and family courts are set to resume in-person hearings Monday.
Chief Justice Donald W. Beatty of the Supreme Court of South Carolina announced the move Monday in a letter posted to the webpage of the South Carolina Judicial Department.
"[T]his memo serves as notice that beginning September 21, 2020, court operations will resume normal scheduling and docket management, including in-person hearings in Circuit Court and Family Court, as well as General Sessions and Common Pleas jury trials," Beatty says in the letter.
Beatty notes that matters might be heard in-person beginning next Monday but adds that judges have discretion to determine whether it's appropriate to hold a remote hearing.
When an in-person hearing is conducted by a judge, only attorneys, the parties, necessary witnesses, necessary court staff and a limited number of members of the press will be allowed to appear.
Hearings must be staggered to minimize the number of people appearing at the same time. Schedulers are asked to allow 20 minutes between hearings.
Judges are asked to consider ruling upon motions without need for a hearing when appropriate.
In Family Court, continuances are to be avoided and judges may continue to grant an uncontested divorce, approve a settlement agreement or consent order, without hearings.
In Circuit Court, counties that have submitted jury plans can resume jury trials. Other counties are asked to submit plans by Friday.
Also, limited judicial travel is permitted provided that judges leaving their home circuits are within commuting distance of their homes.
Beatty also adds that continuances should not be granted based on one person's reluctance to attend an in-person hearing as long as the safety protocols are in place.
Beatty adds that he will continue to monitor court operations and make alterations should the need arise statewide or in a particular judicial circuit.
"I thank you for your continued commitment to provide access to the courts and ensure that justice is served," he says in the letter. "Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns."
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