Coronavirus and the courts

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Have information to share about how your court is responding? Submit it to pandemic@ncsc.org.

MEDIA INQUIRES: Please contact Lorri Montgomery at 757-262-8694.

Courts around the country are responding to the coronavirus in numerous ways, working to balance public health and safety with access and openness. NCSC is compiling resources, news, court orders, and more and updating this page on a daily basis. 

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NEW
Coronavirus and the Courts State Profiles 3-27-2020 

Here’s a summary of what happened as of March 27:

  • Guam: Order suspends sentences for those sentenced to weekend incarceration.
  • Idaho: Only emergency hearings and proceedings are to be conducted. No civil trials; criminal trials delayed at least 30 days from original starting date.
  • Kentucky: Supreme Court issues new amendments to order limiting in-person court proceedings, extends restrictions to April 24.
  • Michigan: Joint statement by Chief Justice and Executive Director, Michigan Sheriffs’ Association - Judges should coordinate with law enforcement and prosecutors about expanding the use of appearance citations and summons (when appropriate and legally permissible) rather than custodial arrests and arrest warrants. 
  • Maine: No jury trials or grand jury proceedings for the months of April and May 2020.
  • Mississippi: Order suspends criminal procedure rule that prohibited "[a]ppearance by interactive audiovisual equipment" in the context of a "probation violation hearing" and "any felony ... sentencing."

      


If your court does not have a pandemic response and operations plan, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) offers resources to help:

  • NCSC hosted a Facebook live event on March 5 to discuss the impact the coronavirus is having on courts and what courts can do in response. The event, which was sponsored by the State Justice Institute, featured Nora Sydow, a Principal Court Management Consultant and staff to the CCJ/COSCA 2016 Pandemic and Emergency Response Task Force and project director for the 2019 CCJ/COSCA National Pandemic Summit. 
  • This Preparing for a Pandemic blueprint guides state and local court leaders without an existing pandemic benchbook to create one, and prompts states with a benchbook to keep it updated (Appendix B provides templates and checklists).
  • The Texas benchbook was updated in 2020. 

For two days in May 2019, Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Heavican hosted the National Pandemic Summit at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, home to the country’s largest biocontainment unit. The summit, which now looks to be ahead of its time, brought court leaders, public health officials, legislators, and executive branch officials from 25 states and three territories together to start a conversation on how states need to plan and prepare for a pandemic, which often includes quarantines that raise many potential legal issues. The summit, the first-of-its-kind, was funded through a grant from the State Justice Institute and staffed by the National Center for State Courts.

Go here to read more about the summit.

  • Maine Preparedness by Judge Charles C. LaVerdiere who presided over the 2014 Ebola case and related litigation.
  • Judge LaVerdiere's order in State of Maine v. Kaci Hickox
  • Podcast in which Judge LaVerdiere discusses lessons for judges and other court employees
  • State Law in a Pandemic Response provides information about how state laws vary in terms of what courts and judges can do with regard to quarantine and related issues.

The report for Florida's Eleventh Circuit (Miami-Dade) examined both court staff's awareness of health issues and their knowledge of how to prepare themselves. Surveyed court staff regarding whether or not they would return to work amidst a pandemic and under what conditions.