If your family emergency outweighs the current health emergency, here’s how you get protection from the courts

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ST. LOUIS – Starting this past Monday, St. Louis County Judges came up with a way to hold hearings involving cases where people could be in imminent danger.

Attorney Matt Radefeld described the cases as, “…very urgent. I personally as a special prosecutor have been involved in situations where an ex-husband violated the order of protection and we caught him on ring door-bell hooking up listening devices to his ex-wife’s window, slashing her tires, death threats.”

St. Louis County Circuit Judge Jason Dodson said, “The message is the courts are open. We are accessible. You do not have to come to court to both file your case and seek protection.”

Judge Dodson talked about resuming live hearings this week, sometimes by video conferencing.

“We had at least three contested cases where we had both sides, a couple of them had attorneys. We did have one person in live as well. That is available to people. If they can appear only live or they have some strong desire to appear live we can accommodate that as well,” said Jason Dodson, St. Louis County Circuit Judge.

Judge Dodson said they’ve had to change their structure a bit to get it done, staggering hearings so that people are remaining spread out.

“Of course in the most populous county in the State, we have a lot of these cases. We had at least five dockets every single week and so delaying them has been ok but we have to get back to hearing cases so people can get protection. Or if the cases need to be disposed of, otherwise that the respondent can have their day in court as well,” said Judge Dodson.

“As (presiding) Judge Burton once said, we’re reading the book as we rewrite it right now and anything we can do to establish a new norm while this is going on and we are having to stay at home and practice law or do whatever we can do – these things are essential and vital to making sure these individuals are continuing to be protected,” said Radefeld.

You can still show up in person and file for a protection order. You can do that in St. Louis County as well as in the City of St. Louis and in St. Charles County. You will be greeted inside the front door by security who will help you get what you need to file. You can also go to your closest police department where you can get help filing a petition from an officer. You can also file a petition online through St. Louis County.

St. Charles county also recently began video hearings this week.

St. Louis City is close behind with remote hearings that may be available in the city by as early as the week of May 4th, but not all litigants will have the technology available. Hearings for those who do will be scheduled on a case by case basis. In-person hearings are being scheduled in May and June.

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