It is no secret that at the present time Michigan courts are operating at less than full capacity because of the pandemic.

Although essential and other selected services are being provided, we all hope that the situation will end soon and the day will come when we can get back to normal.

I now can say with certainty that as to the courts, that day is getting closer and to paraphrase General Douglas MacArthur’s famous promise, “We shall return.”

The question is how and when?

The answer is found in a publication released May 6 by the Michigan Supreme titled, “Return To Full Capacity COVID-19 Guidelines For Michigan’s Judiciary.”

The following is a brief summary.

The starting point for what will eventually be a full unrestricted reopening of the courts is the proposition that protecting the health of the public and court employees is the first priority.

In order to accomplish this, the Guidelines have four progressive Phases with a court’s plans for each Phase to be submitted to the Supreme Court’s Administrative Office for review and approval.

Before the plans for each Phase can be approved, certain conditions must be met including there being no COVID-19 confirmed or suspected cases in the court facility for 14 days, a documented downward trajectory of cases for 14 days, a rescission of all local and state restricted movement/shelter in place orders, and there being sufficient capacity for local health care facilities to treat new patients.

After the preconditions are met, Phase One requirements include social distancing with tape or other visible markings (where practical), the wearing of personal protective equipment in public areas, specific facility sanitation, health screenings of all court users and employees, the closing of all large rooms to the extent possible, a limit of 10 people in courtrooms or other areas, and videoconferencing when possible.

There are a number of other requirements.

The requirements for each subsequent Phase are lessened to the point where in Phase Four they are eliminated entirely.

These are just the highlights with the entire plan being available at the Supreme Court’s website.

We all want things to get better and to return. The Supreme Court has given us a way to do it. Let’s hope for the best.

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