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Missouri Supreme Court Provides Guidance for Re-Opening Courts

On May 4, 2020, the Supreme Court of Missouri issued a new statewide Order in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This newest Order is effective May 16, 2020 and includes directives Missouri courts must follow as the state begins the process of reopening. As before, this Order may be extended should circumstances warrant. You can read the newest Order on the Missouri Courts website.

The Supreme Court intends for, “this Order to be interpreted broadly for the protection of the public from the risks associated with COVID-19.” The Missouri Supreme Court has devised a multi-tiered “Operating Phase Approach” in an attempt to create a system of uniformity across Missouri Courts that is mindful of the disparate needs of local communities impacted by the pandemic. All courts should meet certain gateway criteria prior to resuming any court activity or moving into the next operating phase.  A court cannot proceed to the next operating phase until it has completed at least 14 days in its current phase. Before proceeding from one phase to the next, a court must reevaluate the gateway criteria to ensure the court’s readiness to progress to the next operating phase.

Gateway criteria

Regardless of the phase in which a court may be operating, local courts should:

•    Allow (or, in phase three, consider allowing) “vulnerable individuals” as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and  Prevention to postpone their required presence in a court proceeding.
•    Follow social-distancing protocols and consider requiring the use of masks or other face coverings.
•    Clean and disinfect common areas and consider providing hand sanitizers and wipes.

The Court intends to issue further operational directives for conducting grand and petit jury proceedings as pandemic and health conditions improve.

 

The Missouri Courts website has an interactive map that allows users to identify which phase their court is currently operating.

At this time, Legal Services and Legal Aid offices in Missouri are still providing services while staff are working remotely.

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