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Cambria County Courthouse

With no end in sight to the pandemic, court systems are continuing to function during the coronavirus, with some adjustments.

Like many other public buildings, the Cambria County Courthouse requires masks to enter the building, uses a thermal temperature scanner and is working in socially distanced courtrooms. The district attorney’s office has also been handling several cases via video calls.

“We can’t afford for the justice system to not function. It just has to continue to function. Again, we owe that to victims, defendants have rights, and we owe that to the public to continue to serve and we are doing so in the best and safest possible manner,” explained Cambria County District Attorney, Greg Neugebauer.

At the start of the pandemic, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ordered courts to remain open because of their essential public function. Cambria County Courthouse continued moving cases through the justice system with the help of video calls.

“We did over a thousand hearings via video last year. Which prior to last year we did very little via video. So, there’s been a huge shift. We’ve worked very well with the prison to get the proper technology in place and the courtroom technology in place to do again over 1,000 hearings by video,” said Neugebauer.

But for cases like homicide trial of Shakir Smith or the upcoming jury trial for Paul Lehman, those hearings must be done in person as safely as possible. Which is why the courthouse has precautions in place, like requiring people to wear masks, temperature checks upon entry and socially distances jurors and council.

“There are certain things that have to be done in person. You can’t have a jury trial with a defendant via video. They have to be able to speak with their attorney. That’s an essential right that they have,” said Neugebauer. “But some things can be via video and I hope that continues into the future. It’s going to save the county a lot of money, it’s going to save the sheriff’s office a lot of money, it’s going to save my office a lot of money and it’s more efficient,” he added.

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