MARQUETTE COUNTY — In response to the COVID–19 pandemic, the Michigan Supreme court has issued several Administrative Orders to address distancing guidelines while continuing essential court functions.
The Administrative Order authorizes courts to continue some operations as usual, they are also encouraged to adopt new business methods to conduct hearings via two–way interactive video conferencing technology.
However, this has caused complications as some defendants, and even some courts, do not have access to said technology.
“When you have a case; for example, a circuit civil matter, wherein each party is represented by an attorney. It’s very easy to implement a remote technology option for that because most of the parties have the technology available to them, ” said Charity Mason, Director of Court Operations for Marquette County Courts. “Some of our other caseloads don’t lend themselves to technology options, as well, and the district court caseload is probably the best example of that because it is extremely high volume, and many of them are self represented litigants which means we don’t have an attorney component.”
Due to this limitation, the 96th district court will accommodate proceedings when remote technology is available, but it has limited its court option to give priority to those cases involving incarcerated defendants.
“We are prioritizing our efforts on the issues that have the most constitutional implications,” Mason explained. “So obviously, when you have someone incarcerated, and their liberty rights are at stake then you are going to put all of your resources into that. You are going to prioritize the processing of that case over a lawsuit involving two people disagreeing over a five hundred dollar debt.”
While some court hearings may be postponed for the time being, the 96th district court is preparing for the influx of cases following the lift of the administrative orders.