On March 5, the Supreme Court issued its 36th Emergency Order, effective immediately. The effects of this order are:
Authority for courts to take steps to eliminate the risk of the spread of COVID, including modifying or suspending deadlines and procedures, is extended until June 1. Courts are expressly authorized to require face coverings and social distancing for any in-person proceedings.
Courts should continue to use reasonable efforts to hold remote proceedings. Justice courts may resume in-person proceedings, including jury trials, but only if the local administrative judge has adopted minimum standard health protocols including masking, social distancing, or both as well as an in-person proceeding schedule. Courts must grant a request, if based on good cause, from any participant in an in-person proceeding to appear remotely.
Additionally, for in-person jury proceedings:
  • The court must obtain prior approval for the proceeding from the local administrative district judge.
  • The court must consider any objection or motion related to holding the in-person jury proceeding at least 7 days before the proceeding, or as soon as practicable if the motion is made within 7 days of the proceeding.
  • The court must establish communication protocols to ensure no participants have tested positive for COVID or experienced COVID symptoms in the previous 10 days or have been exposed to COVID in the previous 14 days.
  • The court must include with the jury summons information on the health and safety protocol and procedures in place to protect prospective jurors and a COVID questionnaire that asks the jurors about their exposure or vulnerability to COVID. Download a juror COVID questionnaire.
  • The court must excuse or reschedule prospective jurors who provide information confirming their infection or exposure or particular vulnerability to COVID and request to be excused or rescheduled.

Judge Gilbert now must submit guidelines for Montgomery County to Judge Underwood for approval.