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Judge in self-quarantine rules from dining room

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    Omaha (WOWT) — The risk of coronavirus is impacting our courts one judge shows us how one courtroom operates even when the judge isn’t there.

“I was in England for 4-days and then I was in France,” said Judge Horacio Wheelock.

Last week, a family vacation interrupted by travel restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’m doing what they told me – to socially distance myself. Not just myself – but my family,” said Wheelock.

The judge hurried home to Omaha so as to avoid getting stuck in Europe.

“I felt the right thing to do is take it extremely seriously and to socially distance myself for 14-days,” said Wheelock.

On day four of his self-isolation, courtroom 410 came to order.

“We’re in such unchartered territory. Our great citizens deserve to be in court – and they deserve their lives aren’t altered any more than they have to,” said Wheelock.

His bench became his dining room table.

“To show you my work area, my computer. All my statute books. All my case law. You see my paperwork. I’m working on a plea for Wednesday. Its business as usual in 410, except I’m not there,” said Wheelock.

While the court reporter, the attorneys, even the defendant come to the actual courtroom – he appears via skype – and a big-screen TV.

“It’s completely thinking outside the box,” said Wheelock.

From sentencings to pleas, little is off-limits to this method, except for jury or bench trials.

“Is this the future? I don’t know. I know there’s no substitute for the real thing,” said Wheelock.

If he continues to be healthy, Judge Horacio Wheelock will head back to court in-person in 10-days.

“Out of an abundance of caution, it’s doing the right thing. It’s definitely the next best thing,” said Wheelock.

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