MSC Authorizes Courts to take Emergency Measures Over COVID-19

Update: On March 18, 2020, the Michigan Supreme Court ordered the state’s trial courts to “limit access to courtrooms and other spaces to no more than 10 persons, including staff, and to practice social distancing and limit court activity to only essential functions.” Read more here.

The original news from March 15, 2020, appears below

The Michigan Supreme Court has issued a unanimous order authorizing trial courts to take emergency measures to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The emergency measures authorized in the order, which are effective through April 3, 2020, may include:

1. 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;
2. 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;
3. 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;
4. Trial courts should maximize the use of technology to facilitate electronic filing and service to reduce the need for in-person filing and service;
5. Trial courts should, wherever possible, waive strict adherence to any adjournment rules or policies and administrative and procedural time requirements;
6. 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;
7. 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;
8. 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;
9. 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.

The latest updates from the judicial branch can be found here.

Related: Resources for Attorneys & FAQ About Coronavirus