Changes to the Minnesota Judicial Branch During Times of Social Distancing

In conjunction with Governor Tim Walz’s declaration of emergency and the Minnesota Department of Health’s urgent request to practice social distancing, Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice, Lori S. Gildea, issued a judicial order outlining changes for the Minnesota Judicial Branch.[1]

As of March 16, 2020, cases pending before the Minnesota Court of Appeals and the Minnesota Supreme Court will proceed as scheduled. To limit social interaction, these courts will hear cases remotely if appropriate and will assess on a case-by-case basis the necessity of oral arguments.

Minnesota District Courts will be impacted in numerous ways.

Changes to District Court Proceedings

Jury Trials and Criminal Court Appearances

Jury trials starting on or before March 13 will proceed through their conclusions. All other jury trials are postponed through at least April 22, 2020 and will be rescheduled for later dates. Beginning March 23, 2020, in custody adult and juvenile defendants will progress as scheduled for essential court appearances and will allow attorneys and parties to appear remotely. All other criminal proceedings are suspended until April 22, 2020.

Emergency Court Appearances

Beginning March 23, 2020, district court judges will hear emergency cases with parties and attorneys appearing remotely. Emergency cases include civil commitments, emergency change-of-custody requests, guardianships, orders for protection, and housing disputes where parties or public health are at risk. Hearings including immediate liberty or public or personal safety is concerned will be held in courtrooms providing the attorneys and the parties an option to appear remotely.

Non-Emergency Court Appearances

All other cases will proceed as scheduled outside courtrooms, where parties, attorneys, and judicial officers will collaborate remotely. If you are involved in a family law proceeding, your scheduled court appearances including initial case management conferences, custody hearings, and review hearings will be held remotely and as scheduled.

Limited Public Access to All Court Facilities and Court Administration

The court clerk’s counter and self-help center will be closed to the public for in-person visits. Individuals in need of assistance may contact self-help centers electronically or via telephone.

Courts will continue to receive case filings and document submissions electronically or by mail, as determined by court administration. Until further notice, in-person filings are no longer permitted except for facilities requiring in-person filings.

Access to courtrooms will be limited to parties, their attorneys, court staff, and other individuals the presiding judicial officer deems necessary. Members of the media are permitted to attend proceedings held in courtrooms, provided that they obtain court approval in advance.

As of March 19, 2020, the State Law Library is closed to the public until further notice.

Family Law Services Outside the Courtroom

Because employees in many fields are working from home, limiting exposure to others, and transitioning into new work-life routines, family services such as mediation, custody evaluations, financial and social early neutral evaluations, psychological evaluations, etc., may be re-scheduled for later dates or held remotely. We know these adjustments add strain to what are often already difficult family experiences. Our staff is committed to helping clients address scheduling challenges and obtain services as quickly as possible in light of local and national circumstances.


Parties Wishing to Obtain Family Law Services

If you wish to begin a family law proceeding, such as divorce, custody and parenting time, and/or property settlement, please contact our office. Often times, family law proceedings are partly or completely addressed outside the courtroom, including emergency proceedings. Depending on your case, your needs may not be heavily impacted by changes in court services.

Note: Given rapidly changing circumstances locally and nationally, court services are subject to change. We will amend this blog as new information becomes available.

At Lake Harriet Law Office, we provide strong legal representation for our clients who are going through divorce and family law matters, and we use a data-focused financial approach to address the division of assets and debts.

If you have a divorce or family issue, please contact us to discuss.

Managing Attorney – Randall A. Smith

Student Attorney – McKenzie Harter

Student Attorney – Taylor Blatchford

Student Attorney – Katie Arndt

[1] Continuing Operations of the State of Minnesota Under a Statewide Peacetime Declaration of Emergency, No. ADM20-8001 (Minn. March 20, 2020)

Published On: March 19, 2020Categories: Family Law Updates

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