Hennepin County’s numerous courts are bracing for Super Bowl week, making plans to shift some cases to courtrooms outside downtown Minneapolis and asking some staffers to avoid time off during the three weeks surrounding the big game.
The Hennepin County Government Center, which houses the main courthouse for district court — only four blocks from U.S. Bank Stadium and just outside the event’s security perimeter — will remain open for business as usual, said Kyle Christopherson, a spokesman for the state judicial system.
But that doesn’t mean it will be easy to get there in the days leading up to the Feb. 4 game, with several streets in the stadium area slated to be restricted or closed.
The biggest concerns are unpredictable delays from traffic congestion and the expected scarcity of downtown parking, Christopherson said.
“We don’t want to make it difficult for court customers to come to court,” he said.
So officials are shifting as many hearings as possible to the county’s other courthouses in Brooklyn Center, Edina and Minnetonka.
Only non-mandatory cases will be moved, Christopherson said. Criminal cases scheduled for the Government Center that must be heard within a certain period of time likely will remain downtown.
But since Hennepin County District Court hears about 1,300 cases a day — “everything from traffic tickets up to first-degree murder,” he said — a lot of people could be headed to the suburbs in late January and early February to conduct their court business.
Courts that could be affected include civil, conciliation, family, housing, juvenile and probate/mental health.
Other adjustments will be made for the week, Christopherson said. Given the prospect that thousands of visitors will mean a surge in citations, staffers with the court payment center are being asked to skip vacations from late January through mid-February.
Technical system upgrades will be postponed until after Feb. 16, to avoid downtime. And routine training for court employees will happen at the suburban courthouses, not downtown.
In the event of mass arrests stemming from any protests, Christopherson said, Hennepin County may activate an emergency operations center along with Minneapolis. Judges and court staffers could be on call to handle weekend hearings if necessary.
The only other time a Super Bowl was held in downtown Minneapolis, in January 1992, Hennepin court officials warned judges that it would be nearly impossible to find hotel rooms for criminal-trial jurors needing to be sequestered overnight.
This time, it’s likely the courts will head off that problem by moving jury trials on the calendar that week to a suburban location, Christopherson said.