In-person criminal jury trials for all case types will resume in state district courts effective March 15, under a new statewide order issued by Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea.
“We are gradually increasing in-person activities in court facilities in a safe and responsible manner that will allow the courts to fulfill our constitutional obligation, while we continue to do all that we can to protect public health and safety,” said Gildea.
In-person criminal jury trials in all case types may commence March 15, as long as the court adheres to the Minnesota Judicial Branch COVID-19 Preparedness Plan and approved local jury trial plans. These plans, which are consistent with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Minnesota Department of Health, address changes to facilities and protocols that must be followed to meet social distancing and public health and safety needs.
All other proceedings, including civil jury trials, will be conducted remotely through April 30, unless the chief judge of the judicial district grants an exception. To help move civil disputes forward, the Minnesota Judicial Branch will soon launch a pilot project that will authorize approved courts to conduct civil jury trials via remote hearing technology, if the judge and all parties to the case agree. The pilot project is anticipated to begin in late March, with additional courts being approved for remote civil jury trials in the months ahead.
The new order extends provisions that were included in a November 20, 2020 order that limit in-person activities in court facilities. These include:
- Remote Hearings: Hearings across all case types will be conducted remotely to the extent possible. Exceptions may be granted by the district chief judge for in-person proceedings under limited circumstances.
- Appellate Courts: Proceedings in appeals pending before the Minnesota Court of Appeals and the Minnesota Supreme Court will continue as scheduled by those courts.
- Civil Commitment: Proceedings that are before the Commitment Appeal Panel shall continue as scheduled, and be conducted remotely to the extent possible.
- Case Filings: Courts will continue to accept filings in all case types.
- Public Service Counters: At least one public service counter in each county, and one in the appellate courts, will be accessible between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday – Friday, excluding court holidays. Counter service can be provided remotely, by appointment, or in person.
- Self-Help Services: Self-help services will be conducted by appointment, remotely, or by telephone.
District courts may be contacted directly by phone or email for more information on their operations.
For more information, see ADM20-8001: Order Governing Operations of the Minnesota Judicial Branch.
The Minnesota Judicial Branch is made up of 10 judicial districts with 295 district court judgeships, 19 Court of Appeals judges, and seven Supreme Court justices. The Judicial Branch is governed by the Judicial Council, which is chaired by Gildea. The Minnesota Judicial Branch is mandated by the Minnesota Constitution to resolve disputes promptly and without delay. In 2019, there were nearly 1.2 million cases filed in district courts in Minnesota. For more information please visit www.mncourts.gov.