Maine Courts Take Steps To Resume Operations

May 28, 2020

As the state of Maine prepares to open hotels, retail stores and state parks June 1, state courts are also taking steps to resume operations. The process will be gradual and jury trials will not be held for several months.

For the past three months, most court proceedings have been curtailed with a few exceptions: cases involving injury or death, protection orders and matters related to constitutional rights.

Beginning June 1, courthouses will open with new protocols in place. Anyone entering a courthouse must wear a face covering, use hand sanitizer made available at the door and follow social distancing measures. No more than ten people will be allowed in a courtroom at one time, with no more than 50 on a floor.

According to a COVID-19 Management Plan signed by Acting Chief Justice Andrew Mead, video and telephone conferences are the strongly preferred option for all court proceedings, but beginning June 15, arraignments, juvenile detention hearings, motions for bail reviews and other matters may be scheduled in person. And in July, grand jury proceedings can be scheduled and held in person.

Jury trials are not scheduled to begin until after September 7. In all cases, court events will be arranged to prevent large numbers of people from entering and exiting a courthouse at any given time. Any resurgence of COVID-19 may result in a change in the plan.

"[T]he Court's decisions," Justice Mead writes, "have been founded upon scientific data...and have represented the Court's best judgment in the difficult task of balancing the need to protect the health and safety of the public and the Court's employees with the need to provide a forum for the adjudication of legal matters."