The Maine court system has released a detailed and phased plan for resuming court activities.

Starting June 1, the courts will expand hours again, opening from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Video and telephone hearings will be strongly preferred even beyond September, but the courts will be allowed to schedule some events in person as soon as June 15.

Those hearings would be limited to arraignments and first appearances for defendants in custody, first appearances for criminal cases involving summonses, juvenile detention hearings, protection from abuse and harassment hearings, child protection cases, mental health requests and other specific types of hearings. The courts will be allowed to schedule all other types of cases in person starting July 6.

The courts will enforce strict screening and social distancing guidelines through the summer, according to the plan. Everyone who enters a courthouse will be required to answer a series of questions, wear a mask and use hand sanitizer at the entrance and exit. No more than 10 people will be allowed in a courtroom and no more than 50 in common areas.

Criminal grand jury proceedings might be allowed starting Aug. 3. Some civil hearings – including evictions, foreclosures and small claims cases – will be delayed until then as well. No jury trials will be scheduled or held until after Sept. 7. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court will hear oral arguments virtually or decide cases without oral arguments until that date, and the plan allows video conferencing even then, if preferred.

Any resurgence of COVID-19 could also change the plan, and changes could apply in individual courthouses or across the state.

“In making decisions about court capabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Court will continue to obtain and rely on scientific information from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the input of diverse stakeholders in determining how to ensure the health of the public while upholding the fundamental rights of litigants in the court system,” the plan reads.

Maine courts have been operating on a very limited basis since March. Proceedings related to safety or liberty, like first appearances in criminal cases or protection from abuse cases, have been allowed to go forward. The state announced earlier this month that courts could schedule more hearings if they could take place on video or telephone.

The plan and other information related to court operations during the pandemic is available at courts.maine.gov.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: