The Michigan Supreme Court
has issued four significant orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
AO 2020-4, dated March 26, 2020, suspends deadlines for all appellate filings beginning March 24, 2020, to correspond with Governor Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order. Deadlines are tolled until the executive order expires on April 13, or until a subsequent executive order “extends the period in which citizens are required to suspend activities that are not necessary to sustain or protect life.” Filers will have the same number of days to file after the executive order expires as they would have before it was effective. The MSC provided an example of how this would play out in the order.
AO 2020-3, dated March 23, 2020, pertains to deadlines for starting a civil or probate case. A deadline that “falls during the state of emergency declared by the Governor related to COVID-19 is not included for purposes of MCR 1.108.” The MSC clarified that the order “is intended to extend all [civil and probate] deadlines pertaining to case initiation and the filing of responsive pleadings.” However, a court may still order “an expedited response to a complaint or motion . . . to hear and resolve an emergency matter.”
AO 2020-2, dated March 18, 2020, directed “trial courts . . . to limit access to courtrooms and other spaces to no more than 10 persons, including staff, and to practice social distancing and limit court activity to only essential functions.” The MSC defined essential functions by court—circuit, district, and probate. All matters that are not listed as an essential function must either be conducted remotely or adjourned until after April 3, 2020. Criminal jury trials must also be adjourned.
AO 2020-1, dated March 15, 2020, allowed trial courts to implement emergency measures. Chief Justice McCormack discusses the order here. The MSC detailed nine specific actions courts could take, including adjourning cases, using remote technology, employing electronic filing, and reducing cases being heard and people congregating in and around courtrooms. Courts may even close their buildings to the public. Any emergency measures are, “[s]ubject to constitutional and statutory limitations,” particularly in criminal matters. For example, a case involving a defendant in custody may not be adjourned but the court may use teleconferencing.
AO 2020-1 and 2020-2 are effective until close of business on Friday, April 3. However, it seems likely that the MSC will extend the dates on these orders since Governor Whitmer’s executive order runs from March 24 through April 13.
Links to individual court policy changes are listed below by county. We will update this post as further information becomes available. If you would like to forward information about court operations during this time, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sanilac https://www.sanilaccounty.net/Default.aspx Van Buren https://www.vbco.org/courts.asp