Summary of Emergency Orders from the Civil Litigation Section

By Michael Carlson posted 03-26-2020 09:35

  
Greetings colleagues. The MSBA's Civil Litigation Section has summarized the Court's emergency scheduling orders. A copy of their pdf is available in the MSBA practicelaw library. The full text is reproduced below. 

EMERGENCY CIVIL SCHEDULING ORDERS

The Minnesota Supreme Court has issued several orders concerning ongoing court operations given Governor Walz’ March 13, 2020 declaration of a peacetime emergency. Individual state court districts also have issued orders concerning their ongoing court operations. Civil practitioners may have questions concerning the impact of these orders, and which matters will and will not proceed. The following is a summary of the Minnesota Supreme Court Orders ADM20-8001, issued March 13, 2020 and March 20, 2020. This summary carries the following caveat: nothing in this summary is authoritative, and each practitioner should read the orders, and if you have any questions specific to your case(s), you should direct your questions to specific court personnel or a judge’s law clerks.

March 13, 2020 Minnesota Supreme Court ADM20-8001 (hereinafter the “March 13 Order”), a copy of which can be accessed here.

In the March 13 Order (which, as noted below, was largely superseded by the Court’s March 20 Order), Chief Justice Gildea ordered that:

Appeals before the Minnesota Court of Appeals and Minnesota Supreme Court, including arguments, would continue as scheduled.

Trials for which a jury was empaneled would continue to conclusion, unless good cause exists based on the individual health and safety of circumstances of any case participant to suspend the trial.

The March 13 Order also established a case priority list, designating cases and/or proceedings as Super High Priority, High Priority, Medium Priority and Low Priority. Super High Priority and High Priority cases would continue as usual. Other than these cases, and criminal cases subject to a speedy trial demand, no new jury trials would begin or be scheduled on or after March 16, 2020, and this suspension would last through March 30, 2020. All other proceedings, to the extent practicable, would be held by ITV or video or telephone conferencing. ¶ 7 of the order requires parties or witnesses scheduled to appear for in-court or proceedings to notify the court if they cannot appear due to suspected or actual exposure to COVID-19. Courtrooms were to remain open to the public, though non- essential visits to the courthouses were discouraged. Persons at elevated risk of transmitting the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19 were not to attend in-court proceedings. Court staff were to promote the use of social distancing and other mitigation strategies recommended by the Minnesota Department of Health.

A review of the attached case priority list revealed that no cases were deemed Super High Priority. Rather, a Super High Priority case was a High Priority Case “+” an immediate liberty and/or safety concern. This “Super High Priority category is subject to interpretation by each individual court when the need arises.”

 The following civil proceedings were designated High Priority:

Ex Parte Temporary Restraining Orders
Ex Parte Harassment Restraining Orders
Harassment Hearings
Temporary Injunction Hearings

Civil proceedings deemed Medium Priority were:

 

Objection to Exemption Hearings (garnishment cases)
Writ Requests
Contested Foreign Judgments
Appeals from Administrative Hearings
Civil Jury and Court Trials
Scheduling Orders

 

Civil proceedings deemed Low Priority were:


Notices to Remove
Implied Consent Hearings
Civil writ of attachment or consent proceedings
Discovery Motions
Summary Judgment Motions
Other Dispositive Motions
Order to Show Cause Hearings
Vehicle Forfeiture
Approval of Minor Settlement Hearings
Name Changes
Mortgage Foreclosure Hearings, including Redemption Hearings
Conciliation Court Hearings
Conciliation Court Appeals

 

Other than the High Priority proceedings, the March 13, 2020 order suspended all civil proceedings deemed medium or low priority through March 30, 2020 with the exception of jury trials empaneled or sworn before March 13, 2020.

March 20, 2020 Minnesota Supreme Court ADM20-8001 (hereinafter the “March 20 Order”), a copy of which can be accessed here, provides that:

Appellate Court Operations: Proceeding in appeals shall continue as and when scheduled. The appellate courts may allow hearings to be conducted remotely, if necessary and appropriate, and may determine that oral argument is unnecessary. The courts are also authorized to grant reasonable extensions up to 30 days. The deadline for the district court to transmit physical exhibits is extended until April 22, 2020.

Supreme Court Commitment Panel: proceedings shall continue as scheduled and the panel is authorized to conduct proceedings by Interactive Video Teleconference or other video or telephone conferencing to the extent necessary.

The Office of Lawyer Professional Responsibility shall continue to conduct business within the discretion of the Director.

District Courts:

Trials: ¶4 states that any type of trial for which a jury has been empaneled and sworn as of March 13, 2020 or a court trial in a criminal matter where the court has heard evidence as of March 13, 2020 shall continue “unless there is manifest necessity to suspend the trial based on the individual health and safety circumstances of any case participant.” Other than jury trials, no new jury trials shall commence before April 22, 2020 or until further order of the court.”

Emergency Hearings: Generally speaking, the only civil proceedings that are specifically addressed by the March 20, 2020 order are contained in ¶ 9, which provides that effective March 23, 2020, hearings shall be held on an emergency basis in the following cases: housing/eviction upon a showing of individual or public health or safety at risk; civil commitment; emergency change of custody orders; guardianship and orders for protection. The parties and attorneys may appear remotely. In all other housing/eviction matters, the presiding judge is authorized to conduct the proceedings remotely or based on parties’ written submissions.

Remote Hearings: Otherwise, ¶ 10 is a general catch all provision that states that hearings shall be conducted in a courtroom for any case type where the request for relief presents “an immediate liberty concern, or when public or personal safety concerns are paramount.” Garnishment exemption hearings shall be conducted in a courtroom. Other than these proceedings and those addressed in ¶ 9, ¶ 11 states all other proceedings in all other types of cases will be held by ITV or remote technology that allows parties and attorneys to appear without being in the courtroom or by review of the parties submissions without oral argument “to the extent feasible, practicable, and in the interests of justice.” Courtroom proceedings, “to the extent practicable” are to be conducted within the current limitations on gathering and social distancing.


Access to Courthouse Facilities:

Filings: the courts will continue to accept filings in all types of cases.  Filings must be made electronically if the filer is required to use the electronic filing system. Non-electronic submissions or filings are to be made by e- mail as directed by court administration, by mail, in a drop box, or by other means provided by court administration. Other than access to a drop box or other available filing means, the parties and the public are not allowed access to the court facilities for purposes of submitting documents for filing.

Public Access to Courtrooms: Access is limited to parties in the case who are participating in the hearing, attorneys for the parties, necessary court staff, and others the judge deems necessary. The media can attend hearing in courtrooms but do not have access to other court facilities, including public access terminals. Requests to attend a hearing by the media must be made 24 hours in advance to the Judicial branch Court Information Office 24 hours in advance, except in Hennepin County, where the request must be made to the Hennepin County District Court Information Officer.

The March 20 Order largely supersedes the March 13 Order: ¶16 states that “(e)xcept as set forth in paragraphs 2 and 11 regarding the continued suspension of Minn. R. Crim. P. 1.05 and Minn. R. Comm. 14, this order supersedes the order of March 13, 2020.” Orders issues by a chief judge in an individual district remain in effect to the extent not inconsistent with the March 20, 2020 order.

Summary

Civil Jury Trials: The March 20 Order provides that jury trials shall continue to conclusion unless there is a “manifest necessity to suspend the trial based on the individual health and safety circumstance or any case participant.” Otherwise, no new jury trials will commence until April 22, 2020 or upon further order of the court.

Other Civil Proceedings: Proceedings designated Medium and Low Priority Proceedings, which applied to most civil cases per the March 13 Order, were originally suspended until March 30, 2020. The March 20 Order does not address the March 13 Order suspension, and the March 20 Order specifically states that it supersedes the March 13 Order at ¶ 16. With the exception of cases designated in ¶¶ 6-10, which may require an in-person hearing and includes only the following:

criminal matters, juvenile proceedings,
juvenile protection proceedings,
housing/eviction matters where there is a showing of individual or public health or safety at risk,
civil commitment,
emergency change-of-custody requests,
guardianship,
orders for protection, and
request for relief that presents an immediate liberty concern or when public or personal safety concerns are paramount

 

¶ 11 of the March 20 Order appears to require all other proceedings to be held either by ITV or remote technology or without oral argument. Parties and attorneys may have to contact court administration or judge’s chambers for clarification with respect to hearings scheduled between March 20-March 30 given the differences in the two Orders.

Undoubtedly, the application of these Orders will require time and effort to work out. Be sure to also check for any applicable District Court orders issued by the Chief Judge of the District Court in which you have cases pending. For example, The Second and Fourth Judicial Districts have issued their own Orders, both of which can be accessed here and here. The intent of the Orders is to find a way to keep the courts functioning while also protecting the health and safety of parties, attorneys, judges, staff and the public. This balancing act is a delicate matter, and the courts are working hard to strike a balance. In civil cases, it may behoove the parties and attorneys to work out a reasonable schedule in light of the pandemic and then ask the court for approval.

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