Judiciary relies on remote access and other alternatives to ensure no breaks in services
A lack of court security staff at the Grand Isle Courthouse on Route 2 in North Hero has resulted in a reduction of hours during which the court can be accessed in-person. These changes will not limit the Judiciary’s ability to conduct hearings or address other court-related needs of the public.
Since March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic required the closure of courthouses around the state, the Grand Isle Courthouse has been conducting proceedings almost entirely remotely. This is principally due to the fact that the building lacks the ventilation system necessary to meet the Judiciary’s COVID protocols. The new plan will still allow in-person drop off of filings two days per week, but ensures the court will be open and serving the public every day of the work week in-person or virtually.
“Our security partner, the Grand Isle Sheriff’s Department, recently notified us that they were unable to staff the position that has provided security and screening for in-person visitors to the court,” said Patricia Gabel, Vermont State Court Administrator. “We immediately amended our procedures to ensure that the Grand Isle Court could continue to serve the public and do business safely. Court employees will continue to do their important work for the court throughout the week, though effective this week, we will eliminate in-person access to the building to other parties on all days but Tuesdays and Thursdays, as these are days on which we can staff the security function,” she explained. Gabel also noted that, “we greatly appreciate our partners in law enforcement and know that, just like other organizations, they are finding it hard to recruit and train staff.”
Gabel said the courts would continue to be available via phone and that remote hearings, which have been held in Grand Isle since the start of the pandemic, will continue. Documents can be filed electronically at any time using the Judiciary’s e-filing system. Security staff will accept documents on Tuesdays and Thursdays and a dropbox is being installed near the courthouse entrance at which people can securely deposit court documents.
Gabel indicated that Emergency Relief from Abuse, Stalking, and Sexual Assault filings will be accepted on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Grand Isle Courthouse. Relief from abuse filings will be accepted on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at the Franklin County Family Court located at 36 Lake Street in St. Albans. Relief from stalking and sexual abuse filings will be accepted on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at the Franklin County Civil Court located at 17 Church Street in St. Albans. Filings can be made at any time using the Judiciary’s e-filing system, by email at JUD.FranklinGrandIsleUnit@vermont.gov, or by phone by calling the Grand Isle Court at (802) 372-8350. Forms for these filings are available on the Judiciary’s website.
Gabel also indicated that anyone with questions about their cases or about access to the Judiciary’s services should contact the court directly.
“It’s important to note that most hearings and other court business at the Grand Isle Courthouse are already being handled remotely, as has been the case in courthouses around the state during the pandemic. The Grand Isle Courthouse, like several others, has not been approved for use during the pandemic because the building lacks a mechanical ventilation system,” Gabel remarked. “The slight change to operations in Grand Isle applies to individuals who visit the court in person to drop off paperwork or conduct other business through our security officers who are stationed at the buildings to provide security and customer service,” she added.
“We are working on new staffing solutions and several other alternatives to make doing business at the Grand Isle Courthouse as convenient as possible during this time,” Gabel stressed. “We also hope that Vermonters take advantage of all the new tools we’ve put in place to access the courts in recent years. For information about these options, please visit the Covid page of our website at vermontjudiciary.org/covid19.”