Following Governor Tim Walz’s extension of his Stay at Home Order, Emergency Executive Order 20-33, Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea issued a new statewide order on April 9, 2020, which supersedes all prior orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The order is effective immediately, and until May 4, 2020. It maintains certain provisions from the prior orders, including restrictions for in-courtroom hearings; requiring hearings by remote technology for all other case types and hearings; and allowing for certain fine and fee due dates to be delayed by 60 days.
“The Minnesota Judicial Branch will continue to rely on public health experts to determine when conditions in our courthouses may begin to return to normal. The expanded availability of remote hearing technology in all locations in the state will allow more cases to continue despite the necessary restrictions on physical access to courthouses,” said Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea. “I commend our district and appellate courts and the many justice partners who have worked tirelessly to adjust to the new technologies and processes during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Below is a summary of the order; for full details see the order.
District Court Hearings & Processing – See: section B.
The order authorizes and encourages the use of remote technology when possible to conduct hearings in any pending cases. Some of the technology options courts are using today include ITV, WebEx, Zoom, Virtual Courtrooms, and phone bridges.
Courthouses will remain open on a limited basis for in-person contact, hearings may continue to be held in courtrooms for specified hearings and case types, and courts will continue to accept filings in all case types. Self-help services will be conducted via phone or email. District courts may be contacted by phone (bottom of page) or email. Other than specifically provided for by the order, case deadlines established by Court Rules remain in effect unless extended by an order of the Supreme Court or the presiding judge.
Fines & Fees – See: section C., paragraph 16.
The State Court Administrator is authorized to extend due dates for most payable citations by 60 days, and to suspend the penalties for failure to appear and late payments. Certain exceptions apply. Cases that are not included in the 60-day due date extension may still be eligible for extensions. Any questions on fines and fees should be directed to the district court (bottom of page) or the Minnesota Court Payment Center.
Jurors – See: section B., paragraphs 4. & 5.
Jurors must continue to follow the instructions on their paper summons, but the Minnesota Judicial Branch will not be calling any additional jurors to courthouses until May 4, 2020, at the earliest. No new jury trials will begin prior to May 4, 2020. Grand juries that have been empaneled as of March 23, 2020, and are actively hearing a case will continue to hear the case.
Media – See: section C., paragraph 15.
In order to ensure access to hearings, media who wish to cover a hearing must work with the State Court Information Office or the Hennepin County District Court Communications Specialist. Media must provide 24-hours advance notice of a request to attend a hearing, and will be required to follow all social distancing protocols enforced by court administration and judicial officers. Where multiple requests exist, media may be required to coordinate a pool. There will be no access to public access terminals (courthouse terminals) or non-courtroom space in courthouses for the public or media. Media may work with the Court Information Office to request documents.