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Resumption of Court Proceedings

Resumption of Certain In-Person Court Proceedings

Salt Lake City Courthouse Operations

On September 1, 2020, the Court will move to Phase 1 of the plan to resume in-person court operations.  Most court proceedings will continue to be held remotely, but, at the discretion of each judge, court proceedings will resume in-person for:

  • critical Grand Jury proceedings;
  • critical hearings in criminal cases. Critical hearings generally include initial appearances, detention hearings, motions to suppress and other evidentiary hearings, changes of plea, and sentencings;  
  • critical hearings in civil cases (after a party files a motion to appear in person); and  
  • critical bench trials.

As set forth in General Order 20-021 at 3-4, other phases are planned to resume in-person proceedings when deemed appropriate by the Court. The Court is committed to performing its vital work and to try to minimize the risk of COVID-19 exposure. When conditions permit further expanding in-person operations, the Court will announce it. On the other hand, if conditions suggest that in-person operations need to be suspended, the Court also will announce it.

What You Need to Know Now

In-Person Critical Hearings Procedure

◦ Each judge will notice an in-person hearing if the judge determines that your hearing should occur in-person, rather than by videoconference or teleconference.

◦ If you want to opt-out, file a “Motion to Opt Out of In-Person Hearing” showing a reasonable basis to opt out and stating whether the motion is stipulated.

◦ If you do not receive a notice of in-person hearing but want an in-person hearing, file a “Motion Requesting In-Person Hearing” showing a reasonable basis to opt-in and stating whether the motion is stipulated.

Please reference General Order 20-026 for further requirements related to motions on critical hearings. As always, questions can be directed to the chambers of the judge presiding over your case. 

Before You Come to Court

You must comply with all the following COVID-19 requirements.

You will be required to wear a mask, sanitize your hands, and stay at least 6’ away from others. You may enter the Courthouse only if all the following are true:

 1. You have not, in the past 14 days:

  •  tested positive for COVID-19; or
  • suspected that you have had COVID-19.

2. You have not, in the past 14 days, had close contact with someone who:

  • has tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days; or
  • is suspected to have had COVID-19.

3. You do not unexpectedly have any of the following symptoms:

fever or chills

cough

headache

shortness of breath

new loss of taste or smell

sore throat

difficulty breathing

congestion or runny nose

fatigue

muscle or body aches

nausea or vomiting

diarrhe

4. If you tested positive for COVID-19 more than 14 days ago, you may enter if:

  • your symptoms have improved; and
  • it has been at least 24 hours since you had a fever (without using fever-reducing medication); and
  • your medical provider has not told you to stay away from others for a longer period.

If you are required to appear for a Court proceeding or have an appointment at the Courthouse but do not meet the entry requirements, please contact the Clerk’s Office immediately at 801-524-6100 to make alternate arrangements.

Additional Phase I Requirements

  • Because of Courtroom space limitations and physical distancing requirements:
    • FPD and CJA attorneys must advise the Courtroom deputy at least 24 hours in advance of a hearing if family members will be attending the hearing in person. 
    • The USAO must advise the Courtroom deputy at least 24 hours in advance of a hearing if a victim and a support person will be attending the hearing in person.
    • The general public is discouraged from visiting the Courthouse, but are able to observe hearings remotely. To obtain access to a hearing, please check the case docket in PACER, the Court's daily calendar, or contact the chambers of the judge conducting the hearing.
    • Members of the media are permitted to attend in-person hearings, as space allows, or may observe or listen by telephone or video. To obtain access to a hearing, please check the case docket in PACER, the Court's daily calendar, or contact the chambers of the judge conducting the hearing.
    • Persons granted electronic access to hearings are reminded of the general prohibition against photographing, recording, and rebroadcasting of Court proceedings. Violation of these prohibitions may result in sanctions.

 

Current Plan Phases

As referenced in General Order 20-021 at 3-4, the Court has adopted a plan for phased resumption of in-person proceedings based largely on guidance from the Administrative Office of the United States and national and local health agencies. A summary of the phases is below:  

  • Phase 1: resume critical Grand Jury proceedings and critical in-person hearings and bench trials, at the judge’s discretion. Critical hearings generally include initial appearances, detention hearings, motions to suppress and other evidentiary hearings, changes of plea, and sentencings.
  • Phase 2: resume full Grand Jury function; in-person hearings will be available in all criminal and civil cases (though the use of teleconference and video hearings will continue as deemed appropriate by the judge in each case). During this phase, the Courthouse will be able to accommodate only one criminal jury trial at a time. The Chief Judge will determine the order of priority for criminal jury trials.
  • Phase 3: full resumption of criminal trials. Once any backlog in criminal cases is sufficiently addressed, full civil trials may resume. 
  • Phase 4: lift all restrictions on in-person Court activities and resume bar-related and public events at the Courthouse.

Gating Criteria for Phases

The plan adopts the recommendations from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts to assess the following before moving from one phase to the next:

  • No COVID-19 confirmed or suspected cases in the court facility within a 14-day period, or if a confirmed or suspected case has occurred, there has been a “deep cleaning” of exposed areas and applicable employee self-quarantine actions have been taken; and
  • Sustained downward trending average of cumulative daily COVID-19 case counts in Utah over a 14-day period; and
  • Rescission of local restrictions on movement or local shelter in place orders.