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State Courts Limit In-Person Activities in Court Facilities for Additional 45 Days

Posted: Friday, January 22, 2021

Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea issued a statewide order effective February 1, 2021 that limits in-person activity in courthouses for an additional 45 days and creates standing criteria to hold criminal jury trials during that time.
 
“We are keeping the doors to justice open in a manner that prioritizes health and safety,” said Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea. “Through online hearings, socially-distanced courtrooms, and our self-help centers, Minnesotans have had a place to turn to find support, resolve their disputes, and protect their rights during this unprecedented time.”
 
Under the order, no new criminal jury trials will commence before March 15, 2021, unless the chief judge in the district where the trial is to be held grants an exception. Exceptions shall be granted for criminal cases that meet three criteria – the defendant has requested a speedy trial, the defendant is in custody, and the case involves a felony or non-felony person crime - unless the chief judge determines that a trial cannot be held safely due to local conditions.
 
No in-person civil jury trials will be held before March 15, 2021, unless an exception is granted by the chief judge in the district where the trial will be held after consultation with the Chief Justice. The order does allow a civil jury trial to take place remotely if all parties and the judge are in agreement.
 
The new order extends provisions that were included in a November 20, 2020 order that limited in-person activities in court facilities due to a significant increase in COVID-19 infection rates across the state. These include:
  • Remote Hearings: Hearings across all case types will be conducted remotely to the extent possible. Exceptions may be granted by the district chief judge for in-person proceedings under limited circumstances.
  • Appellate Courts: Proceedings in appeals pending before the Minnesota Court of Appeals and the Minnesota Supreme Court will continue as scheduled by those courts.
  • Civil Commitment: Proceedings that are before the Commitment Appeal Panel shall continue as scheduled and be conducted remotely to the extent possible.
  • Case Filings: Courts will continue to accept filings in all case types.
  • 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 be conducted by appointment, remotely or by telephone.
District courts may be contacted directly by phone or email for more information on their operations.
 
Media
The order continues the process in place for media to attend in-person proceedings held in courtrooms, and to record those proceedings as permitted by Court Rules. Media must contact the State Court Information Office or the Hennepin County District Court Communications Specialist to provide 24-hours advance notice of a request to attend a hearing or trial. No recording or broadcasting of any proceedings, whether held in person or remotely, is authorized other than as provided by Court Rules. Public access terminals (courthouse terminals) will be available during established hours by the district court or by appointment. Media may also contact the Court Information Office to request documents.
 
For more information, see ADM20-8001: Order Governing Operations of the Minnesota Judicial Branch.