RED WING -- The in-person activity limit at the Goodhue County District Court will be extended to Wednesday, March 15.

Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie S. Gildea issued a statewide order effective Monday, Feb. 1, that limits in-person activity in courthouses for an additional 45 days and creates standing criteria to hold criminal jury trials during that time.

“We are keeping the doors to justice open in a manner that prioritizes health and safety,” Gildea said. “Through online hearings, socially distanced courtrooms, and our self-help centers, Minnesotans have had a place to turn to find support, resolve their disputes, and protect their rights during this unprecedented time.”

Under the order, no new criminal jury trials will commence before March 15, 2021, unless the chief judge in the district where the trial is to be held grants an exception. Such cases must meet three criteria:

  • The defendant has requested a speedy trial
  • The defendant is in custody
  • The case involves a felony or non-felony person crime
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The trial then may proceed unless the chief judge determines that a trial cannot be held safely due to local conditions.

No in-person civil jury trials will be held before March 15, unless an exception is granted by the chief judge in the district where the trial will be held after consultation with the chief justice. The order does allow a civil jury trial to take place remotely if all parties and the judge are in agreement.

Goodhue County Court Services Director Mark Jaeger. File photo
Goodhue County Court Services Director Mark Jaeger. File photo

Mark Jaeger is the Goodhue County Court Services director. He reflected on the extended in-person activity limit saying, “there is always something lost in the dynamics of court when all proceedings are held virtually, but the local criminal justice partners have shown patience, flexibility and cooperation in making the best of the situation. And court administration has done an excellent job of working through the technological challenges virtual court presents."

Like others, Goodhue Court Services staff are anxious to return to in-person hearings, he noted, but respect the necessity of operating safely while still providing services to the best of their ability.

Court Services continues supervision of offenders by more frequent phone and email contact where in-person contact is not feasible under present conditions. "New cases are still being processed and there is still a need for limited in-person contact for drug and alcohol testing, etc. while observing protective protocols," he said.

The new order extends provisions that were included in a Nov. 20 order that limited in-person activities in court facilities due to a significant increase in COVID-19 infection rates across the state. These include:

  • Remote hearings: Hearings across all case types will be conducted remotely to the extent possible. Exceptions may be granted by the district chief judge for in-person proceedings under limited circumstances.

  • Appellate courts: Proceedings in appeals pending before the Minnesota Court of Appeals and the Minnesota Supreme Court will continue as scheduled by those courts.

  • Civil commitment: Proceedings that are before the Commitment Appeal Panel shall continue as scheduled and be conducted remotely to the extent possible.

  • Case filings: Courts will continue to accept filings in all case types.

  • Public service counters: At least one public service counter in each county, and one in the appellate courts, will be accessible between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday-Friday, excluding court holidays. Counter service can be provided remotely, by appointment, or in person.

  • Self-help services: Self-Help Services will be conducted by appointment, remotely or by telephone.