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COVID-19 News: MN Judicial Branch sets new restrictions on courthouse use

Because of the COVID-19 crisis, the Minnesota Judicial Branch has set new restrictions on who may enter courthouses for at least the next 30 days, and how other means can be used to allow hearings and other court business to proceed. The new restrictions go into effect Monday, March 23.

Below is a summary of major changes established by the order.

District Court Hearings & Processing 

The courts will remain open on a limited basis for in-person contact, and continue to accept filings in all case types. Self-help services and facilities will be conducted via phone or email. District courts may be contacted by phone (bottom of page) or email. Other than specifically provided for by the order, case deadlines established by Court Rules remain in effect unless extended by an order of the Supreme Court or the presiding judge.

Except for specific cases detailed in the order (and below), all other proceedings in all other case types shall be held by ITV or any other remote technology that permits the parties and attorneys to appear without being in the courtroom, or by review of the parties’ submissions without oral argument, to the extent feasible and practicable.

  • The following adult criminal case types, where the defendant is in custody, will be held in the courtroom. The defendant and the attorneys may appear remotely. Victim impact information may be provided remotely.

o   bail review

o   hearings under Rule 8 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure

o   omnibus hearings that do not require live testimony

o   plea hearings

o   sentencing hearings and

o   probation revocation hearings, if any necessary testimony can be provided remotely.

  • The following juvenile proceedings, and cases where the juvenile is in custody, will be held in the courtroom. The juvenile and the attorneys may appear remotely.

o   detention review

o   omnibus hearings that do not require live testimony

o   plea hearings

o   certification hearings

o   extended juvenile jurisdiction hearings

o   disposition hearings and

o   probation revocation hearings, if any necessary testimony can be provided remotely.

  • Juvenile protection proceedings for emergency protective care (EPC) will be held in the courtroom. When possible, EPC hearings will be combined with any admit/deny hearing. Attendance to these hearings will be limited to parties and parent-participants, and their attorneys.

o   All other proceedings in juvenile protection matters can be held remotely, or will be conducted based on the presiding judge’s review of the written submissions.

  • In all housing/eviction matters, hearings will be held in the courtroom on an emergency basis when there is a showing of individual or public health, or safety, at risk.
  • Hearings will be held in the courtroom for any case type where there is an immediate liberty concern, or when public or personal safety concerns are paramount.

In-person hearings will adhere to Minnesota Department of Health social distancing guidance to limit the number of people and the proximity of people in a courtroom to the extent possible.

Jurors

Jurors must follow the instructions on paper summons, but the Minnesota Judicial Branch will not be calling any additional jurors to courthouses for the next 30 days. Individuals with suspected or actual exposure to COVID-19 who are summoned to report for jury duty must contact the court to discuss rescheduling options for his or her jury service.

  • All jury trials underway as of March 13 should continue until the trial is complete, regardless of case type.
  • Grand juries that have been empaneled as of March 23 and are actively hearing a case will continue to hear the case.
  • No new jury trials or grand jury proceedings will start will start prior to April 27, 2020.

Media

To ensure access to hearings, members of the media who wish to cover a hearing must work with the State Court Information Office or the Hennepin County District Court Communications Specialist. Media must provide 24-hours advance notice of a request to attend a hearing, and will be required to follow all social distancing protocols enforced by court administration and judicial officers. Where multiple requests exist, media may be required to coordinate a pool. There will be no access to public access terminals (courthouse terminals) or non-courtroom space in courthouses for the public or media. Media may work with the Court Information Office to request documents.

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