Back on March 11, 2020, Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget McCormack issued a memo recommending adjournments to all state trial courts. This recommendation to adjourn was later extended to recommend delaying all jury trials until at least June 22, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many courts have closed to the general public, and are only partially open for specific reasons, usually requiring an appointment. Certain services such as court marriage ceremonies have remained suspended throughout the pandemic, while other services such as the city assessor require an appointment to access and file real estate paperwork. The Michigan Supreme Court has already resumed activity, participating in some of the first oral arguments via Zoom with attorneys for a handful of cases. There appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel as the two busiest courts in the city of Detroit appear to be on the path towards reopening.
The current operations at Wayne County as well as many other courthouses all over the state have been limited mainly to felony cases. Most other cases have been handled remotely or through networking apps like Zoom to maintain social distancing and safety. Both the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice and 36th District Court in Detroit have been given a deep cleaning during this time because of someone visiting the courts who had tested positive to COVID-19. A recent case in the upper peninsula was the first to broadcast through a livestream online, and the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) is looking into the possibilities of what would be necessary to conduct remote jury trials. It is unclear if there will be an actual change of that process. Different types of technology will slowly update a court system that is rooted in tradition and typically hesitant to change.
It has been announced that bench trials are set to resume on July 7 in Wayne County’s Frank Murphy Hall of Justice. Jury trials are scheduled to return on August 17, but that date seems to be more tentative and less set it stone due to issues regarding social distancing and possible COVID-19 amongst potential jurors. Jurors are often put in crowded courtrooms on jury selection days, and this specific issue worries court officials most. The general public will not be allowed back into courtrooms at this time, as all proceedings will be streamed online at the Court’s website. Both parties involved in a case set for bench trial have to be in agreement to hold the trial remotely, otherwise the trial will continue to be delayed until an in-court date can be given. It is important to remember that both the prosecutor and defendant have the right to a jury trial. Even in normal circumstances, both have to waive that right in order to have a case decided in front of a judge in a bench trial. Many cases are handled this way for various reasons. There are currently hundreds of cases on hold in Wayne County that are waiting to be resolved in front of a judge or jury. The restart of bench trials in July is a big step forward towards trying to get back to the day to day operations of two of the main courthouses in the city of Detroit.
Any Further Questions?
If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime or are being investigated for one, then it is important to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. At Grabel & Associates, our attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience in successfully defending criminal cases all over the state of Michigan. This experience extends not only to adult cases, but also to juvenile charges. We are not a general practice firm. We are a team of criminal defense attorneys; it’s all we do. We offer a FREE consultation to anyone with questions relating to a possible or existing criminal charge against them or a loved one. Feel free to contact us on our 24/7 defense line at 1-800-342-7896. You can also contact us online or come visit us at one of our three statewide locations. We can also come to you.