While a virtual courtroom might seem like a viable option to some, there are those who don’t have reliable access to technology or broadband internet. In order to make their courtroom a reality, one judge got creative.
Tennessee Judge Sets Up Outdoor Courtroom in Parking Lot
To better serve his district, one East Tennessee Judge decided to get creative. He’s using a parking lot to handle some court-related issues.
“Ever had court, weather permitting?,” said Mike Pemberton, a Ninth District Judge.
During this time, many states are practicing social-distancing on account of the coronavirus pandemic. As such, it is critical for local courtrooms to establish safety measures.
Pemberton isn’t exactly holding court in his parking-lot-turned courtroom. Instead, he’s using the space to conduct matters that can’t be heard inside of a courtroom for the time being.
“People need their adoptions,” said Pemberton. “They need their divorces if they’ve reached an agreement. They need their workers’ compensation settlements, their minor settlements, things like that.”
When Pemberton starts “court” for the day, he takes the out the “bench”. Which, notably, is now comprised of a chair he pulled outside from his office. It’s set up in front of a folding table he keeps in the bed of his truck.
“Not much else more than you see,” said Pemberton. “All four of my courthouses have greatly and understandably restricted access and it’s difficult for folks to get into the courtroom—courthouse, excuse me,” he said.
Safety Precautions Set Up Outdoors to Protect People From COVID-19
When people arrive at the parking lot court, they’re greeted with signs that remind them to keep their distance from one another. Hand sanitizer is provided on tables. Further, there are two red handwritten signs that have symbols for “Delta” and “Pi,” that represent where the defendant and plaintiff will stand.
In other words, everything is set up to be legal and processed as if it would in a typical courtroom.
“Both for the attorneys and the litigants,” said Pemberton. “If they have an issue that is agreed to, that they need to get in front of the court and get it resolved, get the document signed, get their settlement checks approved … get their settlements approved, receive their settlement checks, or get their whatever divorces done, adoptions done, they just need to call or email my office.”
Pemberton has tried to make it more than clear that his courtroom parking lot isn’t just a publicity stunt, and exists for those who might need it.