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Chief Justice statement on continuances and rescheduling Thursday, March 19, 2020

The Court has recently issued emergency orders related to the COVID-19 emergency. The health and safety of our judicial team members, litigants and attorneys is our priority. We also understand our obligation to continue essential functions to provide a forum for protecting vulnerable persons, providing stability for children, and providing a forum for the resolution of criminal proceedings.

Emergency Administrative Order 25 suspended jury trial proceedings. Eliminating the gathering of large groups of people and gatherings in confined spaces is necessary given the state of emergency declared both federally and by the State of North Dakota. The order also suspended the mandatory review of guardianship proceedings.

Emergency Administrative Order 25 acts as a floor and is not intended as a directive to continue with non-jury trial proceedings which would expose team members, litigants, and attorneys to an unnecessary health risk. Our district judges have been empowered to liberally exercise their discretion in continuing proceedings. Our district judges, with the assistance of litigants and attorneys, are in the best position to evaluate and decide which proceedings should proceed forward and whether alternative forms of appearance can be arranged. The Court has arranged daily information exchanges with the district courts and the Court will take system-wide action when appropriate.

The input from trial court judges, administrators, judicial team members, litigants, and attorneys is welcome and necessary. Our goal is to continue essential operations while we continue to acknowledge our priority of maintaining a safe and healthy environment.

Courthouses around the State are closing their public access, but allowing court operations. We will continue to implement alternative methods for resolving pending legal issues. You can help by providing your suggestions and comments. More information from you will make for better decisions.

Jon J. Jensen

Chief Justice

North Dakota Supreme Court