ADRIAN — Lenawee County courts will open to the public on Monday for the first time in months, but many proceedings will continue to be conducted remotely.
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Vaccinated persons will be able to enter the judicial building unmasked and move about each floor as needed, a news release said. Unvaccinated persons should continue to wear a mask and socially distance from others. COVID-19 screening will no longer take place prior to entering the building.
The courts have been generally closed to the public since the COVID-19 pandemic reached Michigan in March 2020. The Michigan Supreme Court ordered all court facilities in the state to close until certain conditions related to the spread of the coronavirus were met. On Tuesday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer rescinded executive orders pertaining to COVID-19, and the Michigan State Court Administrator’s Office moved all state trial courts to Phase 4 — the final and least restrictive phase of fully opening courts — of the “Return to Full Capacity” guidelines implemented at the beginning of the pandemic, the release said. Courts were instructed to utilize the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration and their local health departments to mitigate risk to employees and the public.
Lenawee County courts consulted with the county health department and MIOSHA to facilitate policies and procedures aligned with safety and an improved access to justice, the release said. The Rex B Martin Judicial building will be open to the public Monday, June 28.
However, the courts will continue to take advantage of the video conferencing technology they have been using almost since the initial closure. Licenses to use the Zoom video conferencing service were issued to every court and hearing room via the State Court Administrator’s Office, and YouTube channels were developed for each court.
“The pandemic operations revealed an unmatched level of accessibility to the Courts,” the release said. “As such, the Courts will continue to use technology to the greatest extent possible. Many hearings will continue to take place in a Zoom courtroom allowing respondents to attend court hearings without restraints. Jury trials and certain hearings will take place in person.”
“Virtual hearings are here to stay and benefit everyone,” Lenawee County Circuit Judges Anna Marie Anzalone and Michael R. Olsaver said in a memo sent to court staff and local attorneys. “The people who appear before us often have child care restraints as well as difficulty finding transportation. For many people, missing a day of work to come to court may have serious financial implications.”
Along with the courts, the Friend of the Court will continue to conduct hearings and financial intakes virtually, the memo said.
The Monday docket in circuit court, which is primarily civil cases, and the Wednesday morning criminal docket will continue to be conducted virtually, the memo said. Attorneys with cases on the Wednesday morning docket have been instructed to have matters sorted out with their clients and the prosecutors assigned to their cases before Wednesday morning. Jail inmates will no longer be transported to court and will appear instead by video, as they have throughout the pandemic. Defendants also will be able to waive their right to be sentenced in person.
Evidentiary hearings may be conducted in person or virtually at the discretion of the court, the memo said.
At a glance
Questions regarding business within the Rex B Martin Judicial Building should be directed to the following numbers:
All Friend of the Court hearings and intake appointments will be held via Zoom.