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Montana Supreme Court halts some court proceedings during shelter-in-place order

Posted at 6:57 PM, Mar 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-27 20:57:38-04

Montana Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike McGrath Friday took steps to protect judges, lawyers, court staff, defendants and the public from the coronavirus.

Chief Justice McGrath wrote that Montana courts are considered essential services and will remain open during the stay-at-home order.

However, McGrath noted that many courts are "ill-equipped to effectively comply" with social distancing"or other health requirements. He adds that through consultation with trial judges, health officials and other that Montana courts needed additional direction from the Montana Supreme Court.

He enacted steps that include stopping all civil and criminal jury trials until the stay-at-home order expires on April 10th. The order says criminal trials where a jury has been sworn in can continue if social distancing measures are in place and the defendant agrees.

Emergency matters related to protection orders can continue if they are completed by phone, video or any means rather than in-person.

All in-custody hearing are also suspended until April 10th with a few exceptions.

Those exceptions include:

  • Scheduling and hearing if first appearances, arraignments, plea hearings, criminal motions and sentencing
  • Pretrial release and bail modifications
  • Plea hearings and sentencing hearings that result in the anticipated release of a defendant from pretrial detention within 30 days of the hearing

You can read the Chief Justice's full order below.