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'A Process': Trials To Resume At Allegheny County Courthouse With Strict Social Distancing Guidelines

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - The halls of the Allegheny County courthouse have been empty for eight weeks and the courtrooms silent, but come Monday, judges will pound their gavels again and trials will resume.

But the slow wheels of justice will be spinning even more slowly than usual as courts will face the daunting task of working through a mountain of cases while county sheriff deputies enforce strict guidelines of social distancing.

"It's certainly going to be a process transitioning back to a new normal whatever that may be. But certainly, we're prepared for it," said Chief Sheriff Deputy Kevin Kraus.

The number of people in the courtroom will be limited, everyone will need to wear a mask and a judge will decide each case. There will be no jury trials until September at the earliest.

In an effort to make a dent in the backlog, judges have had teleconferences with assistant DAs and attorneys for defendants willing to strike plea bargains, but the number of unheard cases has continued to grow.

Over at the municipal courts building, an estimated 3,200 preliminary hearings have been delayed and will slowly drip through a bottleneck of security. Instead of one courtroom, magistrate will hear cases in three. But only three defendants will be admitted into the building every 15 minutes.

At least that's the plan.

"Like I said, there's a plan in place, but more importantly we're going to need to be ready to adapt," Kraus said.

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