Minnesota courts will begin to slowly phase in some in-person proceedings now that Gov. Tim Walz's stay-at-home order is set to expire, but virtual hearings will continue for some cases.
Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea issued an order Friday outlining the gradual approach to increasing the number and type of proceedings that can be held in court facilities. The process will abide by state Health Department guidance to limit the spread of COVID-19 and maintain safety in court interactions.
"True access to justice means people in our courthouses are safe and feel safe. When people return to our courthouses they will see new signage, physical barriers, staff and judicial officers wearing face coverings, frequent sanitization, and many other new protocols set up to reduce the spread of COVID-19," Gildea said.
Courts preparing to ramp up their in-person activities must satisfy conditions established by the judicial branch's COVID-19 preparedness plan, which calls for exposure control measures such as social distancing, face coverings and partitions and barriers, among other things.
Once courts are in compliance with these standards, they can begin to implement transitional strategies for resuming more in-person civil, criminal, juvenile and probate cases.
Starting Monday, judges and employees can return to work at their court offices or other judicial branch facilities on a gradual basis.
Starting June 1, a limited number of pilot jury trials will be permitted to start. Pilot locations must first develop a plan to modify their facilities and protocols to meet social distancing and safety needs. No other jury trials will be allowed in criminal cases before July 6. No jury trials will be allowed for civil cases before Sept. 1.
Courthouses will offer limited in-person counter support only to those who are at the facility to attend a proceeding. Other services will continue to be available by e-mail or phone. Courthouse terminals will remain unavailable to the public and media.