Over the past 14 months, most court hearings in Minnesota have been conducted via remote Zoom conference. As more people have become vaccinated and state restrictions eased, however, the Minnesota judiciary is following a path of gradual reopening.
In Minnesota federal court, criminal jury and bench trials have resumed as of May 3, although not at the usual volume as of yet. Other in-person criminal proceedings may also take place. In-person civil jury trials will resume as courtroom space becomes available, and all criminal and civil jury trial-specific deadlines may be postponed by the presiding judge. The clerk’s office is open during normal business hours, although cash payments are not accepted.
In the Minnesota state court system, in-person criminal jury trials may also occur. No in-person civil jury trials will start before June 14, unless exceptions are granted by the chief judge and chief justice. All hearings will be conducted remotely to the extent possible. At least one public service counter must remain open in each county and appellate court during normal business hours. No new grand juries will be impaneled before June 14 unless the chief judge grants an exception.
Several Minnesota judges have anecdotally opined that remote technology will not disappear. Specifically, they expect that certain motion hearings will continue to be held remotely even after the pandemic because they increase judicial efficiency and reduce wasted attorney time (e.g., by eliminating travel and waiting time).
While in-person appearances by witnesses are key in trials and hearings where witness credibility plays a role, hearings in which only attorneys speak (e.g., oral argument on motions) can be just as easily handled by remote videoconferencing. We will continue to keep you updated as the judicial system gradually reopens and evolves in the wake of COVID-19.