BISMARCK — The North Dakota Supreme Court has declared a state of emergency for the judicial branch statewide due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will suspend all civil and criminal jury trials not already in progress through April 24.
The order, effective Monday, March 16, is "entered in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 and minimize the health risks for those who visit or work in courts," according to the text.
Grand Forks County Court Administrator Scott Johnson said day-to-day operations at the Grand Forks County Courthouse will be minimally impacted. Criminal hearings will be moved from the first-floor courtroom to the larger courtroom on the third floor to allow for more space between people in attendance.
He said maximum use of interactive video will be used in court appearances, as well.
"We're still doing this day by day," he said. "We're working it day by day."
The North Dakota State Supreme Court has issued two other judicial states of emergency in its history, according to the Supreme Court Clerk: one for the Minot Mouse River flood in 2011, and one for the Grand Forks Red River flood in 1997.
According to the order, civil and criminal bench trials and hearings will not be suspended, but presiding judges will be given discretion to cancel hearings through April 24. Guardianship reviews will be suspended until June 1, and existing guardianships are extended until further order of the Supreme Court. Multi-person meetings and hearings of specialty courts also will be suspended until April 24.
As part of the order, the Supreme Court has ordered a stay of deadlines occurring between March 16 and April 24. Continuances and extension requests related to COVID-19 will be preemptively granted. That does not apply to juvenile holds, juvenile detention, mental health, protection orders, interim family law orders, shelter care and initial appearances when a defendant is detained, or any other hearing required by the district court, according to the order.