Davenport Evans lawyer Ashley Brost was interviewed for a June 22 article by John Hult featured on SiouxFalls.Business, Working through COVID: Workers share look at providing essential services. The following excerpt is shared courtesy of SiouxFalls.Business. Click on the full article for stories from other essential workers from the Sioux Falls area.
Employer: Davenport Evans Lawyers
Ashley Brost hasn’t been to the office for a few months, but she’s still busy.
“Obviously, the court system doesn’t shut down,” Brost said. “People still need to show up for hearings, for those initial appearances (in criminal court) and bond hearings.”
Those hearings and appearances have changed since March, however. The federal U.S. District Court and Second Judicial Circuit, which covers Minnehaha and Lincoln counties, have each implemented protocol changes to deal with the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Those include restricting access to the courthouses for at-risk individuals or those exposed to the virus, encouraging attorneys to conduct business remotely and requiring masks.
“I’ve appeared for one hearing in person,” Brost said. “I still had to come to the courthouse to file a protection order for one client. Otherwise, I’ve done everything through Zoom or over the phone.”
On the criminal side, there’s an added element of fear from clients being sentenced to prison – fear of contracting COVID-19. Those fears also extend to clients she hasn’t heard from in years.
“I’ve had a lot of my former clients, those in prison, wanting to know if there’s anything I can do to get them out because they’re feeling vulnerable to the virus due to pre-existing conditions and the enclosed space,” she said.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act has provisions for the early release of prisoners, but the eligibility requirements are strict. None of Brost’s clients has qualified.
Another change: New clients don’t see her in person after an arrest. Instead of going to meet them in jail before a bond hearing, she now consults via video conference. It works under the circumstances, she said, but it’s less than ideal.
“You want a judge to see your client as a person, and part of how you’re able to do that is by getting to know them as a person through those face-to-face visits,” she said. “You’re losing some of that personal interaction.”
Video hearings on the civil side have been an adjustment as well, but they’ve also led to some unique, positive experiences. One family seeking to finalize the adoption of an adult child before her high school graduation to ensure her new last name appeared on her diploma was offered a Zoom link that allowed far-flung family members to attend.
“The court was really accommodating about it,” Brost said. “There were about a dozen people there from all over the country and even outside of the country.”
Davenport, Evans, Hurwitz & Smith, LLP, located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is one of the State’s largest law firms. The firm’s attorneys provide business and litigation counsel to individuals and corporate clients in a variety of practice areas. For more information about Davenport Evans, visit www.dehs.com.