The Minnesota Judicial Branch announced the next steps in a deliberate, gradual return to more in-person court proceedings and modifications to its COVID-19 health and safety protocols, according to a press release from the state Supreme Court
“The Minnesota Judicial Branch has relied on public health experts throughout the pandemic,” Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea said in the 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.”
The 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 will be in effect from June 14 to Sept. 6:
• Criminal jury trials will be held in person.
• Civil jury trials can be held in person.
• Major criminal, juvenile protection 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 starting on 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 – 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.
The Minnesota Judicial Branch has modified its COVID-19 Preparedness Plan based on recent changes in guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and 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, 2021:
• Social distancing will no longer be 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 and allows for the safe, gradual expansion of the types of cases that are most effectively conducted in person.
About the Minnesota Judiciary
The Minnesota Judicial Branch is made up of 10 judicial districts with 295 district court judgeships, 19 Court of Appeals judges, and seven Supreme Court justices. The Judicial Branch is governed by the Judicial Council, which is chaired by Lorie S. Gildea, Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court. The Minnesota Judicial Branch is mandated by the Minnesota Constitution to resolve disputes promptly and without delay. An average of 1.1 million case types are filed in Minnesota district courts every year. Visit www.mncourts.gov for more information.