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ON Judicial Branch, Courthouse extends COVID-19 precautions through Dec. 31

Citing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with increased patient cases, the Osage Nation Judicial Branch and Courthouse will remain closed except for appointments through Dec. 31, 2020.

Along with other ON government offices, the Tribal Courthouse in Pawhuska amended its operations as a precaution to reduce possible spread of COVID-19 to both staff and the public. The Clerk’s Office is conducting its business by email, fax and phone. The courthouse was operating under a prior administrative order issuing COVID-19 precautions, which is now extended to year’s end.

According to the Sept. 29 order issued by ON Supreme Court Chief Justice Meredith Drent, the extended order is needed “following the continued evaluation of the risks posed by exposure to COVID-19 and the need to preserve the health and safety of court personnel and the Osage community.”

In October, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported the statewide COVID-19 case count surpassed 100,000. As of Oct. 22, the OSDH website reported 112,483 cases statewide, which is a 1.5% increase in the past 24 hours. The COVID-19 death toll stood at 1,221 as of that date, which is an increase of 11 people in the past 24 hours.

The Nation’s Wah-Zha-Zhe Health Center in Pawhuska also releases weekly COVID-19 reports regarding its testing and cases. From Oct. 12-16, the WCC conducted 219 COVID-19 tests with 208 (95%) testing negative and 11 (5%) positive cases. The clinic also reported 11 new cases from the prior week’s report, which reported 22 new cases Oct. 5-9.

In the updated order, Drent said the Nation’s court will continue conducting business remotely “and court operations can and will continue without interruption so parties can conduct regular business with the court without risking exposure.”

The order says the following precautionary measures will remain in place through Dec. 31 or unless withdrawn by another order, whichever occurs first:

– Court offices will remain closed to the general public except by appointment only. Those who wish to do business at the court must call the Court Clerk’s Office at (918) 287-5400 to schedule an appointment. Court personnel shall take reasonable steps to resolve court patron inquiries and shall only schedule appointments when the inquiry cannot be resolved remotely.

– Persons may not congregate in the lobby for court business and must wait outside the Court building.

– With court appointments, only one person at a time may conduct business at the Court offices. An exception will be made for companions providing physical assistance or interpretive services to the person with a court appointment, and for attorneys of record, domestic violence advocates, victim advocates and Court Appointed Special Advocates accompanying the party.

– Persons doing business with the Court shall wear a face mask prior to approaching Court offices. Disposable masks will be available. Court personnel must wear face masks when interacting with the public.

– Hand sanitizers will be available and required for use by both Court personnel and persons with Court business before and after interaction. Court personnel shall wipe down the Clerk’s service window and other surfaces that come into contact with a member of the public.

– For scheduled hearings/ trials, Trial Court judges shall continue to issue all necessary orders to extend filing deadlines and to toll speedy trial if needed after balancing the interests of justice and public health and safety.

– All hearings shall be conducted by telephone or videoconference, when available. Judges who conduct hearings on a regular court day should use their discretion on whether to preside over the hearing at the Court offices or to conduct such hearings telephonically or by videoconference, taking precautionary measures to protect public health and safety.

– To minimize exposure to Court personnel, all court case parties shall make arrangements to appear by telephone or videoconference, when available. If a party cannot appear by electronic means, the party should contact the Court Clerk’s Office as soon as possible.

– The following persons are not permitted to enter the Court offices: Individuals who have recently been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms (including fever, cough, shortness of breath, loss of sense of smell); those who have had close contact in the last 14 days with a person diagnosed within the last month with COVID-19; and those who have been asked to self-quarantine by any doctor, hospital or health agency.

For more information on the ON Tribal Courthouse/ Judicial Branch, call (918) 287-5400 or visit its website at:


Benny Polacca

Original Publish Date: 2020-10-23 00:00:00

Benny Polacca

Title: Senior Reporter


Instagram: @bpolacca

Topic Expertise: Government, Tribal Government, Community

Languages spoken: English, basic knowledge of Spanish and French

Benny Polacca (Hopi/ Havasupai/ Pima/ Tohono O’odham) started working at the Osage News in 2009 as a reporter in Pawhuska, Okla., where he’s covered various stories and events that impact the Osage Nation and Osage people. Those newspaper contributions cover a broad spectrum of topics and issues from tribal government matters to features. As a result, Polacca has gained an immeasurable amount of experience in covering Native American affairs, government issues and features so the Osage readership can be better informed about the tribal current affairs the newspaper covers.

Polacca is part of the Osage News team that was awarded the Native American Journalists Association's Elias Boudinet Free Press Award in 2014 and has won numerous NAJA media awards, as well as awards from the Oklahoma Press Association and SPJ Oklahoma Pro Chapter, for storytelling coverage and photography.

Polacca earned his bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University and also participated in the former American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota where he was introduced to the basics of journalism and worked with seasoned journalists there and later at The Forum daily newspaper covering the Fargo, N.D. area where he worked as the weeknight reporter.


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