Citing potential security threats, the U.S. District Court will close Minnesota's federal court facilities from Sunday through early Thursday.
Because the courthouses aren't open to the public on Sunday, and they would have been closed on Monday because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, the only additional days of building shutdown will be Tuesday and Wednesday. The buildings will reopen Thursday at 5 a.m.
"At this time we know of no credible specific threats against our courthouses, but we have been in close contact with law enforcement," said Chief U.S. District Judge John Tunheim of the District of Minnesota. "Because federal courthouses are often the target of protests and state officials warned of the potential for violence, we thought it best to err on the side of caution and preemptively close our buildings on Tuesday and Wednesday."
There have been reports of possible armed protests at state capitols across the country, including Minnesota, on Sunday in support of President Donald Trump, as well as other demonstrations leading up to, and on the day of, the inauguration of Joe Biden as president on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
Court officials made the decision to close the federal buildings in consultation with the U.S. Marshals Service and the General Services Administration.
The closures will include courthouses and facilities in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Fergus Falls and Duluth. Judiciary staff and other building tenants will be barred from entering the buildings. Only law enforcement and emergency personnel will be allowed to enter as authorized by the U.S. Marshals Service.
"The Marshals Service can focus on protecting the buildings and do not have to focus on protecting people, if there is a problem," Tunheim said.
Staff from the clerk's offices for the U.S. District Court and U.S. Bankruptcy Court will be available by phone and e-mail during the closure period. "We think it best that people work at home," Tunheim said, noting that court staff have gotten proficient conducting work from home amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We are not closing court, we are closing courthouses," Tunheim said.
He said he himself has several court hearings using Zoom video technology scheduled on Tuesday and Wednesday, and those hearings are expected to proceed as scheduled.
Randy Furst • 612-673-4224