Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent executive orders from Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Michiganders are staying at home in record numbers. And while that limits the spread of illness, legal observers and advocates have also warned of an unintended consequence of the stay-at-home order: an increased safety risk to domestic violence victims. For those staying home with an abusive partner, or for domestic violence victims who can’t access courts or police departments during the pandemic, this is a dangerous time.
While nearly all courts are open for emergency proceedings, access to the courts is limited during this time. This is especially true for pro per litigants, and often for reasons outside the courts’ control, such as reduced access to public transportation and other travel restrictions. Many courts across Michigan are implementing unique procedures for emergencies and personal protection order (PPO) petitions during this time. For example, the Wayne County Circuit Court is currently accepting PPOs via email.
What happens if an existing PPO expires during the pandemic? Historically, in order to extend a valid PPO, petitioners are required to move for an extension no later than three days before the order expires pursuant to MCR 3.707(B). This also traditionally requires an in-person appearance at the courthouse.
As a result of the issuance of Mich Exec Order No 2020-63 on April 27, 2020, renewing or extending that PPO is now easier, and in fact, automatic. According to the executive order, any PPO that expires between April 27, 2020, and June 1, 2020, is extended through July 21, 2020. Law enforcement officials are required to record the extension in the Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN), meaning that law enforcement will still be able to locate and enforce extended PPOs until at least July 21, 2020. Hopefully, these measures will help alleviate some of the risks to those vulnerable to domestic abuse until the courts are fully functioning again.