Michigan Supreme Court Orders ‘Phased Return’ to Full Court Operations

May 7, 2020

The Michigan Supreme Court has ordered all Michigan courts to “adhere to the phased return to operations as determined by policy guidelines established by the State Court Administrative Office."

Administrative Order No. 2020-14 instructs that courts “should consider expanding in person operations with diligent regard for health and safety practices as determined in consultation with local health officials and considering the capacity of the community’s health system, and as approved by SCAO.”

According to the Order, there is “some consensus—nationally and locally—about the best way to approach returning to more normal work practices in a way that ensures access to necessary services while also protecting against the risk of further infection. This approach involves meeting various benchmarks based on local public health data as public facilities gradually phase in operations.”

The Court provided a supplement with guidelines for the judiciary to follow in order to return to full capacity.

Meanwhile, the Court has made clear that during this health crisis, “courts must continue to conduct essential functions, and are expected to use their best efforts to provide timely justice in all other matters.”

SCAO policies will include but may not be limited to:

  • Continued use and expansion of remote hearings as practicable and increase of the court’s capacity to conduct business online, including increased remote work by employees;
  • Continued limited access to courtrooms and other spaces to no more than 10 persons, including staff;
  • Imposition of social distancing practices of at least six feet for both employees and visitors;
  • Limited in-person court activity to essential functions that cannot be conducted remotely;
  • In accordance with CDC guidelines:
    • Adoption of policies that ensure appropriate cleaning and sanitation;
    • Adoption of policies that appropriately protect vulnerable individuals;
    • Adoption of policies to safely screen employees and the public for potential cases of illness;
  • Courts must maintain their current level of operations until SCAO approves a court’s plan to expand in-court proceedings. Courts in each circuit may work together to submit to SCAO at each gating level a single plan wherever possible consistent with the SCAO guidelines for returning to full capacity. Conditions may also require a court to move to a previous access level, depending on local conditions.

These conditions remain in effect until further order of the Court.