The risk of coronavirus is impacting all parts of our society, including the court system. One Douglas County Judge says his courtroom is still operating, even though he isn’t there.
“I was in England for 4-days and then I was in France,” Judge Horacio Wheelock told WOWT-Channel 6.
Last week his family vacation interrupted by travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
“I’m doing what they told me – to socially distance myself. Not just myself – but my family,” Wheelock says.
The judge hurried home to Omaha to avoid getting stuck in Europe. “I felt the right thing to do is take it extremely seriously and to socially distance myself for 14-days,” Wheelock told WOWT-Channel 6.
On day four of his self-isolation his courtroom came to order. “We’re in such unchartered territory. Our great citizens deserve to be in court – and they deserve their lives aren’t altered any more than they have to,” says Wheelock.
His bench became his dining room table. "My computer. All my statute books. All my case law, my paperwork. I’m working on a plea for Wednesday. Its business as usual in courtroom 410, except I’m not there,” Wheelock says.
While the court reporter, the attorneys, even the defendant come to the actual courtroom – he appears via skype – and a big-screen TV. “It’s completely thinking outside the box,” Wheelock says.
There is little that is off-limits to this method, except for jury or bench trials. “Is this the future? I don’t know. I know there’s no substitute for the real thing,” said Wheelock.
If he continues to be healthy, Judge Horacio Wheelock tells 6 News will head back to court in-person in 10-days.
“Out of an abundance of caution, it’s doing the right thing. It’s definitely the next best thing,” said Wheelock.
(Photo: WOWT-6 News