The health and safety of the Public, Court Users, and our staff is our top priority. We have created this page to keep you informed about how we are responding to prevent the spread of infectious disease in the Courts to keep court users and staff safe and healthy, and minimize the impact on Access to Justice.
To our Court Community
Our goal is to keep you informed during this unprecedented health event and how it is impacting court services. We know that you have many questions and we will continue to do our best to anticipate them, and address them with the best and latest information that we have available to us. Please check this page often, and consider subscribing to our News Posting at: News Email Subscriptions.
During this time, the Cowlitz County Law Library will be closed. The Cowlitz Law Library uses LexisNexis and during Covid 19 they have continued to provide access virtually. Please see their message below:
As a patron of the Library you are probably aware that we offer Patron Access to LexisNexis. LexisNexis continues to commit to working with the Law Library and the legal Community during Covid-19 by providing access to Library Patrons. If you cannot otherwise conduct legal research onsite you are welcome to register for a temporary Lexis Advance® ID at https://www.lexisnexis.com/en-us/pa-access-request.page - and you will receive an ID within 1 business day. This ID will be good until November 30th. This ID allows you to conduct research on the cases and codes needed for your legal work and personal legal research. We are happy to work with you to maintain access to justice during this critical time.
Courtrooms are closed to the public. If the parties are required to appear for their hearing, it will be via Zoom and the public can view the proceedings on YouTube. The Hall of Justice, Superior Court Clerk's office, and Superior Court Administration will have limited hours of operation and access. Trials being held at the Cowlitz County Event Center will be closed to the public (see Administrative Order No. 2020-003-08). The public can view the proceedings via YouTube.
Effective June 25, 2020, any person unless otherwise authorized by the Court, shall be required to provide and wear a mask covering their nose and mouth all times (excluding children under 2 years of age). If a person has a health condition that prohibits them from wearing a mask, a face shield may be provided upon request. There may be additional health screenings required upon entry to the Youth Services Center.
The listing below, which was revised July 22, 2020, is the current status of court operations. Please be advised that as this situation progresses, more information will be made available and changes will be posted below so make sure to check back regularly.
Review Emergency Orders for the full set of instructions:
- Emergency Order No. 4-A (Modification) RE Court Operations Filed June 30, 2020
- Emergency Order No. 4-A RE: Court Operations (Replacing Order No. 3-A and 3) filed June 25, 2020
- Emergency Order No. 3-A filed May 29, 2020
- Emergency Order 2-A filed May 1, 2020
- Emergency Order No 1-A re: Court Operations filed March 19, 2020
- Emergency Rule 3 (Order Expanding Time for Probable Cause Hearing for Involuntary Treatment Act (ITA) Hearings) and
- Emergency Order No. 3 (Mod.) RE: Court Operations - ITA Hearings (Modification of Emergency Order No. 3).
If the information below differs from Emergency Order No 4-A, defer to Emergency Order 4-A and if possible email SuperiorCourtAdministration@co.cowlitz.wa.us so that this can be updated.
Summary of Superior Court Emergency Order 4-A (Modification): (view here)
COWLITZ COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT IS CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC. CASES WILL BE TAKEN CARE OF AS FOLLOWS:
All jury service is cancelled until at least August 10, 2020. If you have any questions, please contact the Cowlitz County Superior Court Clerk's office at 360.577.3016
- TEMPORARY PROTECTION ORDERS: The Superior Court Clerk's office will send the order to a Judge for review. If the order is approved, it will be returned to the Clerk's office for processing. If it is not approved, the Clerk's office will be notified to set the matter for a hearing as soon as possible, but no later than the next judicial day. This hearing will be held virtually (Zoom) unless the Judge requests the parties be present.
- ALL OTHER EX PARTE PAPERWORK: Ex Parte documents to be considered by the Court will be handled in accordance with the regular ex parte process and rules with the exception that there will be no in person docket.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE/HARASSMENT/STALKING/SEXUAL ASSAULT/CIVIL PROTECTION HEARINGS
- IF NO SERVICE ON OTHER PARTY:
- If Temporary PO has been granted by a judicial officer and no proof of service on other party filed, then the assigned judicial officer will automatically reissue an order setting a new date and reissue the temporary PO until that new date. The parties are NOT TO APPEAR until the new date for the PO hearing.
- If Temporary PO has been denied, but a hearing has been set, and no proof of service on other party filed, then the assigned judicial officer will automatically reissue an order setting a new date. The parties are NOT TO APPEAR until the new date for the PO hearing.
- IF PROOF OF SERVICE ON OTHER PARTY FILED:
- Parties shall appear by Zoom. If a continuance is requested and the other party does not object, the assigned judicial officer will reissue the temporary order setting a new date for the hearing. The parties are NOT TO APPEAR until the new date for the PO hearing.
- WEAPONS SURRENDER COMPLIANCE HEARINGS:
- Petitioners shall appear virtually, unles otherwise ordered by the Court
- For Pending Compliance Hearings: If a Respondent is served with an Order to Surrender Weapons and there is proof of service then the hearing will proceed as scheduled but the Respondent shall appear by Zoom ONLY IF Respondent has not already filed a “Declaration of Non-Surrender” or a “Receipt for Surrender.”
LIMITED JURISDICTION COURT APPEALS (RALJ)
- RALJ matters shall be determined on the pleadings filed with the Court unless oral argument is required by one of the parties or the Court. If oral argument is heard, it will be via Zoom.
FAMILY LAW CASES
- All Civil/Domestic Trial Assignment Dockets will occur via Zoom
- Family Law Dockets will proceed as scheduled. However, the default rule moving forward will be to have all family law motions decided solely on the pleadings (no oral argument). Additionally, proposed orders must be delivered as bench copies and emailed to the appropriate docket judge and judicial assistant, so written decisions and orders can be made and entered as quickly as possible. If the assigned judge determines that he/she wants to hear oral argument, that will be heard via Zoom. Court Administration will notify the parties as soon as possible of their need to appear. To view Timelines and Details for this revised process click here.
- Automatic Orders: The judge will sign in all cases filed since March 1, a temporary order. You can see what the temporary order looks like by clicking here.
- Family Law Trials: All family law trials will either be held via Zoom with stipulated agreement by all parties or need to be reset by the parties on the Trial Assignment Docket to be rescheduled.
- Mandatory Settlement Conferences: All mandatory settlement conferences will be held via Zoom.
- State Paternity Motions and State trials for child support modifications or adjustments shall be handled on pleadings only (pursuant to Domestic Docket procedure detailed in Emergency Order)
- State child support contempt dockets and State trials for paternity and initial orders of child support shall be held via Zoom
CIVIL LAW CASES
- All Civil/Domestic Relation Trial Assignment dockets shall occur via Zoom
- Guardianships: The assigned judge will decide the motions based solely on the documents filed with the court, unless the assigned judge requests your appearance via Zoom. The assigned judge will issue a written ruling and send that to the attorneys or unrepresented parties. Where appropriate, the matter can be submitted for consideration through the Ex Parte process.
- Probates: All eligible Petition for Appointment of Personal Representative or Administrator and Bonds MUST be presented Ex Parte via the Clerk. For matters which require notice or are otherwise ineligible for submission Ex Parte, the moving party shall note the matter on the docket. The assigned judge will decide the motions based solely on the documents filed with the court, unless the assigned judge requests otherwise.
- Adoptions: All adoptions shall be heard virtually, please read the entirety of the rule in Emergency Order 4-A.
- All other Civil Hearings: All other civil motions not addressed above shall be noted and heard via Zoom by the Court, excluding Unlawful Detainers based on non-payment of rent shall be suspended until further order of this Court.
- TRIALS: All civil jury trials are stricken through October 2, 2020. You will need to request a new date and time on a Trial Assignment docket. All civil bench trials are to be heard via Zoom.
CRIMINAL LAW CASES
- Call/contact your attorney for information on your case. Office of Public Defense: 360-578-7430.
- All trials are cancelled until a date rescheduled by the Court.
- If your youth is in detention, you can contact detention at 360-577-3100.
- All drug and mental health courts (Adult/SAFE/ITC/HOPE) are being held via Zoom.
MENTAL HEALTH HEARINGS AT ST. JOHNS
- Mental health hearings will be held three days per week. The patient and hospital staff will participate remotely. Call/contact your attorney for information on your case. Office of Public Defense: 360-578-7430.
- Call/contact your attorney or social worker on your case.
- Trials are cancelled and will be rescheduled to a date after June 1.
- HOPE Court is cancelled, but will start again virtually the week of May 4.
TRUANCY OR AT RISK YOU CASES
Call the Juvenile Court Clerk for more information. The phone number for the Clerk is 360-577-3100.
Please review ALL court orders to determine more specific details.
We appreciate your patience and understanding as we navigate the challenges of this unprecedented event.
Over the next weeks, you can expect further changes to our schedule and availability of services. We encourage you to check back here often. We will update our website, https://www.cowlitzsuperiorcourt.us/ and specifically this COVID-19 section, https://www.cowlitzsuperiorcourt.us/covid-19 on a regular basis as things change.