State court ramps up in-person court proceedings
The Minnesota Judicial Branch announced this week the next steps in a deliberate, gradual return to more in-person court proceedings and modifications to its COVID-19 health and safety protocols.
“The Minnesota Judicial Branch has relied on public health experts throughout the pandemic,” said Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea in a news release. “Based on revised guidelines at both the federal and state level, we will continue our gradual return to more in-person proceedings in court facilities in a deliberate and responsible manner that prioritizes health and safety.”
A new statewide order expands in-person court proceedings in accordance with revised health and safety protocols in the Minnesota Judicial Branch’s COVID-19 Preparedness Plan. Under the order, the following is in effect June 14 through Sept. 6:
• Criminal jury trials will be held in-person.
• Civil jury trials can be held in-person.
• Major criminal, juvenile protection (including Child in Need of Protection or Services and Permanency cases types), and juvenile delinquency trials and contested hearings will be held in person.
• Criminal settlement conferences will be held in-person.
• Grand jury proceedings will be held in-person.
• Mandatory misdemeanor criminal trials and contested hearings are to be held in person beginning Aug. 2.
• All other district court proceedings will be held remotely unless the chief judge of the judicial district grants permission for an in-person proceeding based on extenuating circumstances.
• Appellate courts: Proceedings in appeals before the Minnesota Court of Appeals and the Minnesota Supreme Court will continue as scheduled by those courts.
• Public service counters: At least one public service counter in each county, and one in the appellate courts, will be accessible between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding court holidays. Counter service can be provided remotely, by appointment or in-person.
• Self-help services: Self-help services will continue to be conducted by appointment, remotely or by telephone.
• Courthouse terminals: Courthouse (public access) terminals are available to the public and media based on hours established by the local district court.
• Media access: Media may attend in-person court proceedings held in courtrooms and to record those proceedings as permitted by Court Rules. See Section 18 of ADM20-8001 for additional details on media access to in-person and remote proceedings.
For more information, see ADM-2001 Order Governing the continuing operations of the Minnesota Judicial Branch.
Face coverings are required inside courtrooms and jury deliberation spaces
The Minnesota Judicial Branch has modified its COVID-19 Preparedness Plan based on recent changes in guidance from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and the Minnesota Department of Health. Currently, all state courts require six-feet social distancing and mandatory use of face coverings in all areas of a court facility. Beginning June 14:
• Social distancing is not required in court facilities for brief interactions or when people are wearing face coverings. Brief interaction is defined as when two or more different households are within six feet of each other for less than 15 minutes total within a 24-hour period.
• Face coverings are required inside courtrooms and in jury deliberation spaces. Presiding judges may allow for removal of face coverings in the courtroom if deemed necessary, as long as six feet of physical distance can be maintained while the face coverings are removed. Face coverings in public areas of a county-owned court facility will be required if local government guidelines mandate their use. Any person who wishes to wear a face covering in a court facility may do so.
Because court proceedings involve people from multiple households and often last longer than 15 minutes, masking helps manage risk in courtrooms.