ST. PAUL — Minnesota state courts are restricting in-person access to courthouses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a Friday, March 20 statewide order, Chief Justice Lorie Gildea said hearings will still take place in court, but attorneys and defendants can appear remotely for many types of proceedings. Courts will remain open and will still accept case filings, but in-person contact will be limited and self-help services will be conducted over phone or email.
Friday's order will go into effect on Monday, and will be in effect for 30 days unless another is issued.
According to the order, jurors should still follow their summons, but the courts will not call any more jurors to serve for the next 30 days. All jury trials in progress as of March 13 are to continue until the trial is complete as well as, grand juries actively hearing a case. No new jury trials or grand jury proceedings will start before April 22. Jurors called who suspect they may have been exposed to COVID-19 should contact the court to reschedule.
“We are committed to protecting the safety of all who must enter into a courthouse during this unprecedented time," Gildea said in a statement. "The Minnesota Judicial Branch is where people access justice and defend their constitutional rights. The balancing of public health and access to justice during this time is testing our systems and procedures. The steps we announce today will help us maintain that delicate balance."
As of Friday, 115 Minnesotans have tested positive for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by coronavirus. But state officials warn many more Minnesotans could unknowingly be positive, as testing supplies have been limited. Non-essential businesses have been ordered to close under Gov. Tim Walz's peacetime emergency declaration.
On Friday, Walz told reporters he is considering deploying the Minnesota National Guard to help with meal service and cleaning at the state's prisons. And Walz said he talked to legislative leaders about quickly taking up Gildea's requests.
"I'm in full support of her guidance and leadership of what she thinks needs to happen to both protect folks, hard to call a jury trial right now, but how do we make sure folks are having their case adjudicated in a fair manner," Walz said.
The CDC COVID-19 symptom checklist is here.
MDH COVID-19 hotline: (651) 201-3920.
Business impacts hotline: (651) 297-1304 or (800) 657-3504.
School and childcare hotline: (651) 297-1304 or (800) 657-3504.
MDH COVID-19 website: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) website.
As a public service, we've opened this article to everyone regardless of subscription status.