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Judges: Barnstable Courts are Changed, But Busy During Pandemic


Judges in the Barnstable courts want the public to know the courts are open, even as some tasks have slowed because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Several judges spoke Wednesday on cable access Channel 18. 

Arthur C. Ryley, first justice of the Probate and Family Court, said if a person is a victim of abuse, or has an emergency related to an estate matter or family matter, the case will be heard — whether in person, by telephone, or by Zoom.

“You will not be turned away,” he said. “If you are a grandparent who has grandchildren whose parents are unable to care for those children, and it's an emergency, you can come to this court and you will be heard.”


He said Zoom is the preferred method for family and probate hearings, but not the only one.

In District Court, jury trials have not resumed, but some matters are going forward with a bench trial in front of a judge.

Parties to restraining orders are being asked to appear in person, while pre-trial hearings and civil matters are happening over Zoom.

District Court First Justice John Julian asked for understanding from the public.

“Now, one thing to keep in mind, when you do come into the courthouses, is just be mindful that you need to be a little bit more patient,” he said. “The line may be a little bit longer because we have staff at every door that has to ask you a series of questions.”

Probate and Family Court is busy, in part because of COVID-19, according to Anastasia Welsh Perrino, register of probate. 

“Family matters do not stop during the pandemic,” she said. “Oftentimes, unfortunately, they get worse.”

She said the court has handled a number of guardianships for people who have become incapacitated with COVID-19.

Those are in addition to the many guardianship cases the court continues to see for children whose parents are unable to care for them, often because of substance use or mental health problems, she said.

In Probate Court, estate cases have increased because of deaths from COVID-19, Perrino said.