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Wisconsin task force working to keep courts open during pandemic

Brad Williams

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Courthouse workers from around Wisconsin have a short time to figure out how to make the court system safer during the COVID-19 outbreak. 

A state task force headed by Wisconsin’s chief justice held its first meeting last week, and La Crosse district attorney Tim Gruenke is a local member of that committee. 

Gruenke said it’s a tough task, because a jury trial can bring dozens of people together in small spaces, and La Crosse’s 23-year-old courthouse wasn’t designed for social distancing.

Gruenke added that the task force is supposed to come up with recommendations by the end of the month, when the governor’s latest ‘safer-at-home’ order is set to expire. 

When a homicide suspect was brought to La Crosse County court this week, Judge Elliott Levine had the courtroom to himself. 

Levine was on the bench, connected to the defendant, lawyers and reporters by video links because of the coronavirus. 

The hallways outside La Crosse courtrooms already are showing signs of distancing: literally, signs posted on seating outside the courtrooms are designed to keep visitors from sitting too close together.   

 

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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