LAWTON — The Co- manche County Court- house was initially sched- uled to reopen Jan. 4, but because of an anticipated resurgence of the corona- virus after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, that date has been pushed back another two weeks, to Jan. 19.
Central District County Commissioner Johnny Owens made the an- nouncement Monday after meeting with the county’s elected officials to discuss the issue.
“I don’t want to reopen too soon,” he said.
The three county com- missioners will meet again with elected officials on Jan. 15 to re-evaluate the situation, Owens said. The courthouse will be closed Jan. 18 in observance of the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday.
The courthouse, in downtown Lawton, was closed to the public at
4 p.m. Nov. 25 for the Thanksgiving holiday, and has remained closed since then.
“We’re doing what we can to protect the public and county employees,” Owens said at the time.
County officials and their employees have continued their duties for the past month, but protective face masks have been mandato- ry for everyone.
Court Clerk Robert Morales said arraignments from the Comanche Coun- ty Detention Center will continue to be performed virtually.
“They have a closed-cir- cuit camera system be- tween the detention center and the judges’ court- rooms,” Morales said.
Attorneys handling crim- inal cases have been ad- vised to contact the judge handling their client’s case.
Evidentiary hearings have been delayed for two men claiming to be Native Americans who assert
that they were wrongfully prosecuted in Comanche County District Court and their convictions should be vacated. District Judge Em- mit Tayloe said Monday
he will have 30 days after the courthouse reopens to reschedule those hearings.
Protective orders have been and continue to be heard, Special District Judge Susan Zwaan said Tuesday.
Small claims cases will not be considered until af- ter the courthouse reopens, Morales and Zwaan both said.
Special District Judge Grant Sheperd posted notices at the courthouse entrance that misdemeanor cases set for judgment and sentencing this month in his court have been con- tinued to next April. Those scheduled before Judge
Zwaan have been pushed back to March, the judge said.
Drop boxes for tax pay- ments, small claims peti- tions and other items are stationed inside the main entrance to the courthouse on the west side of the building, and telephone numbers of the various of- fices (Court Clerk, County Clerk, Treasurer, Assessor, etc.) are posted on the courthouse doors.
Although the building
is closed, “When you call, you will be helped,” Ow- ens vowed. “If you have
to come to the courthouse, we’ll do everything we can to resolve your problem.”
The Court Clerk’s Office, which processes marriage licenses, criminal records, court payments and court dockets, is closed to the public except on a limited basis, Morales said.
Individuals wanting to acquire a marriage license should visit the Coman-
che County website and navigate to the Court Clerk’s Office. There, click on the “Marriage License” hyperlink for instructions on how to apply for the license. Applications are being accepted only from Comanche County resi- dents — proof of residency is required — and from military personnel at Fort Sill, Morales emphasized.
Everyone who enters the courthouse is required to wear a face mask.
Informational updates are posted on the county’s website at comanchecoun- ty.us and via email at pio@ comanchecouonty.us.
The Comanche County Courthouse was previous-
ly closed to the public for 10 weeks, from March 19 through May 31, because of the coronavirus.
In another matter, four Comanche County officials — County Clerk Carrie Tubbs, Court Clerk Robert Morales, Sheriff Kenny Stradley and Commission- er Owens — will receive the oath of office on Jan. 4. Morales, Tubbs and Owens filed unopposed for new four-year terms; Stradley defeated a challenger in the November general election for another four- year term in the post he has held continuously for three decades.