After a four-month hiatus caused by the pandemic, in-person criminal jury trials will resume in state district courts on March 15, Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Gildea ordered on Friday.
All other proceedings, including civil jury trials, will be conducted remotely through April 30 unless the chief judge of a judicial district grants an exception, according to the Minnesota judicial branch in St. Paul.
Gildea issued the order following a decision by the state judicial council Thursday.
The council is largely comprised of chief judges from judicial districts across the state.
"We are gradually increasing in-person activities in court facilities in a safe and responsible manner that will allow courts to fulfill our constitutional obligation, while we continue to do all that we can to protect public health and safety," Gildea said in a statement.
The resumption of in-person criminal jury trials will require courts to adhere to a "COVID-19 Preparedness Plan" and local jury trial plans.
Those plans are consistent with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Minnesota Health Department.
The plans require changes to court facilities and protocols and include social distancing and other measures.
The new order extends other provisions included in a Nov. 20 order by Gildea that limited in-person court activities.
"Hearings across all case types will be conducted remotely to the extent possible," the judicial news release said.
At lease one public service counter in each county and one in the appellate courts will be accessible between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding court holidays.
Counter service can be provided remotely by appointment or in person.