ST. PAUL -- A number of state district court proceedings are suspended through March 30, according to an order signed Friday, March 13, by Minnesota Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea.
In the three page order, Gildea outlines how the state's courts will be impacted in light of Gov. Tim Walz's statewide peacetime declaration of emergency.
On Friday, U.S. District Court Chief Judge John Tunheim ordered all criminal and civil trials, as well as grand juries and attorney admission ceremonies, suspended until April 27, effective immediately. The state order goes into effect on Monday, March 16, for all 10 districts.
“The courts are one of the first promises made in the Minnesota Constitution," Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea said in a statement. "The prudent and temporary measures we are implementing balance public safety, the safety of people visiting courthouses, and the safety of our workforce. The Minnesota Judicial Branch is committed to ensuring that this delicate balance is upheld as the state copes with COVID-19.”
Proceedings in appeals pending before the Minnesota Court of Appeals and the Minnesota Supreme Court are to continue as scheduled. Trials that have already started also will continue unless there is good cause based on the individual health and safety circumstances of any case participant to the suspend the trial.
Other than for on-going jury trials, cases deemed super high priority or high priority and criminal cases subject to a speedy trial demand, all district court proceedings are suspended through March 30. The order also means that no new jury trials will be scheduled on or after March 16 and for the next 30 days unless they are super high priority, high priority or criminal cases that are subject to a demand for speedy trial.
The order also states that court proceedings of any type should be held through Interactive Video Teleconference or other video or telephone conferencing means to the extent it is practical.
While courtrooms and court proceedings will remain open to the public, non-essential visits to Minnesota courthouses are discouraged.
"No person who has an elevated risk of transmitting the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 may attend any in-court hearings or proceeding," Gildea wrote. "To the extent an individual's presence is required at a courthouse, court staff will promote the use of social distancing and other mitigation strategies as recommended by the Minnesota Department of Health."
Updates about how the Minnesota Judicial Branch is handling the coronavirus can be found at www.mncourts.gov/Emergency.aspx.
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