Ohio group warns judges to prepare for emergency lawsuits because of coronavirus

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CLEVELAND (WJW)– The FOX 8 I-Team found the threat of the coronavirus is forcing judges to prepare for emergency lawsuits.

The I-Team obtained a memo from the Ohio Judicial Conference telling judges statewide an outbreak could close offices and buildings. But, some judges will have to keep working to handle disputes, “Involving public health officials… And law enforcement,” along with any orders concerning where you can go and what you can do during an outbreak.

The Cuyahoga County Justice Center already doesn’t sleep.

“People don’t realize, besides the airport, this is the busiest building in the County,” said Administrative Judge Brendan Sheehan.

Sheehan is well aware the coronavirus is closing tourist attractions and cities around the world. But, in any outbreak that might happen here, the justice center may have to stay open.

“We are prepared for, if something closes, how to have a skeleton crew. So, we’re gonna be ready for it,” Sheehan said.

Attorney Rufus Sims pointed out an outbreak would likely spark emergency lawsuits.

“We have to have some way to resolve our issues. And, we know, sooner or later, someone’s gonna file something either to close the stadium or close the airport or close the schools. And, we have to resolve them here in the courthouse,” Sims said.

Former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Paul Pfeifer now heads the Ohio Judicial Conference, which sent the memo to every court in Ohio.

“Every court is supposed to have an emergency plan,” Pfeifer said. “If you have an outbreak, there’s not time to be reading books and looking at your plan. You need to be doing that in advance.”

All this comes just weeks after the Ohio Supreme Court put out a new guide for judges on public health. The 170 pages cover much of what’s being talked about around the world with the coronavirus: laws surrounding a state of emergency, a quarantine and more.

“We’re looking at what the Supreme Court has issued. We want to make sure the employees, the visitors in this building are safe,” Sheehan said.

The memo from the Ohio Judicial Conference also told judges to stockpile food and medicine in their homes just in case of an outbreak and widespread disruption of daily living.

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