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SUPREME COURT AND JUDICIAL COUNCIL RELEASE CAREFUL ROADMAP TO RE-OPENING COURTS

Posted: June 30, 2020

Salt Lake City, UT—Utah’s Judicial Branch, through a new Administrative Order, has adopted a Risk Response Plan that sets forth safety and operational requirements for courts as they move through three risk phases: Red, Yellow, and Green. The plan also includes guidelines for conducting jury trials and Juvenile Court hearings. The risk phases for the courts are not the same as the Governor’s risk phases. The courts created a pandemic response plan in September 2009, adopting three risk phases at that time. While the Judicial Branch takes into account the Governor’s color coded risk phases as it considers court operations, it has chosen a more cautious approach because it recognizes that among the three branches of government, the courts have the power to compel people to appear in court, either for a hearing, or for jury service. Currently, all court locations are operating under the Red phase. This means, critical court functions continue, and courts are conducting many other criminal and civil proceedings, but most hearings and services are being done remotely. Jury trials will not resume until a court moves into the Yellow phase, and then only if strict safety protocols are followed.

The new Risk Response Plan lays out a process by which courts in a county may seek approval from the Judicial Council to move to the Yellow phase. The council will approve the request to move to the Yellow phase when the local health department confirms that the rate of transmission for the county in which the court is located is consistently decreasing, or is stable at a level well below the level that would overwhelm the Utah healthcare system. Courts can resume in-person operations under the Yellow phase if the appropriate safeguards outlined in the Risk Response Plan are followed. Based on recommendations from state health officials, the courts do not anticipate any court transitioning to the Green phase in the foreseeable future.

The public can check the status of each court location by county by visiting the Utah Courts COVID-19Alerts Page.

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