By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center designated as alternate courthouse during pandemic
gavel

The Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center has been designated as an alternate courthouse facility amid the COVID-19 judicial emergency, according to an order signed by Chief Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin.

The order filed May 18 states the county courthouse “is not adequate and is impractical to handle the social distancing and health precautions required at the current time in any large criminal proceeding.”

The agricultural center is considered “reasonably accessible and (an) appropriate facility for conducting court business,” according to the order which expires June 12.

One judge has planned to hold hearings in the alternate location. 

The Northeastern Judicial Circuit, which includes Hall and Dawson counties, extended the judicial emergency order to end at 11:59 p.m. May 31. The statewide judicial emergency order has been extended to 11:59 p.m. June 12.

Gosselin issued an order requiring anyone entering the courthouse to wear face coverings over their mouth and nose “unless doing so would inhibit the individual’s health” or for children younger than 2 years old.

“Such coverings shall be worn in common areas, including hallways and courtrooms, where social distancing may be difficult to maintain,” according to Gosselin’s order.

Jury trials and grand juries are suspended until Aug. 1, and in-person, non-essential hearings are suspended until June 1.

“Because of the lack of being able to present cases to the grand jury, we have been filing accusations, which are similar to grand jury indictments, to the extent that the law allows,” Northeastern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Lee Darragh said.

Darragh said the judicial emergency time has allowed the district attorneys to prepare cases for the grand jury. It will likely lead to more cases being presented to the grand jury in a shorter period of time than the norm before the COVID-19 outbreak.

Bond hearings, probation revocations and some pleas are still ongoing during the judicial emergency.

“The only thing that’s really not been happening much has been your standard arraignment calendars, your calendar call calendars and your trial calendars,” public defender Brett Willis said.

Regarding the return of arraignment, court administrator Jason Stephenson said the courthouse officials are “close,” but nothing has been set yet. 

The Chicopee Woods Agricultural Center has been designated as an alternate courthouse facility amid the COVID-19 judicial emergency, according to an order signed by Chief Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin.