The Michigan Supreme Court issued guidance and directives yesterday (Sunday) March 15, 2020 providing wide latitude to state courts regarding scheduling, court activity, access and limitations on holding public hearings. The Court’s order also included some directives requiring electronic pleadings and video conferencing in certain circumstances.
The Court makes sure to subject its guidance to statutory and constitutional limitations.
In all, the order frees up the courts and court facilities to ensure public health and safety is prioritized (Paragraph 8), while continuing the administration of civil and criminal judicial proceedings. Any fees for remote proceedings shall be waived (Paragraph 2). Trial courts can also waive any locally, self-imposed adjourment rules / policies / administrative and procedural time requirements.
Expect some disruption and delays / adjournments. I’ve already had a trial court sua sponte postpone an April 7 proceeding to August 7.
Below is the enumerated list of the Court’s order.
- Trial courts may adjourn any civil matters and any criminal matters where the defendant is not in custody; where a criminal defendant is in custody, trial courts should expand the use of videoconferencing when the defendant consents;
- In civil cases, trial courts should maximize the use of technology to enable and/or require parties to participate remotely. Any fees currently charged to allow parties to participate remotely should be waived;
- Trial courts may reduce the number of cases set to be heard at any given time to limit the number of people gathered in entranceways, lobbies, corridors, or courtrooms;
- Trial courts should maximize the use of technology to facilitate electronic filing and service to reduce the need for in-person filing and service;
- Trial courts should, wherever possible, waive strict adherence to any adjournment rules or policies and administrative and procedural time requirements;
- Trial courts should coordinate with the local probation departments to allow for discretion in the monitoring of probationers’ ability to comply with conditions without the need for amended orders of probation;
- Trial courts should take any other reasonable measures to avoid exposing participants in court proceedings, court employees, and the general public to the COVID-19 virus;
- In addition to giving consideration to other obligations imposed by law, trial courts are urged to take into careful consideration public health factors arising out of the present state of emergency: a) in making pretrial release decisions, including in determining any conditions of release, b) in determining any conditions of probation;
- If a Chief Judge or the court’s funding unit decides to close the court building to the public, the Chief Judge shall provide SCAO with the court’s plan to continue to provide critical services, including handling emergency matters.
Read the full order here: