May 14, 2020

Vermont Judiciary Issues Blueprint For Expansion of Court Operations

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On May 13, 2020, the Vermont Supreme Court approved the recommendations contained in a Report that is the Judiciary’s blueprint for expanding operations in the context of the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic. The full Report can be found on the Vermont Judiciary website at the link below:

Although the Court has continued the Judicial Emergency until September 1, it also expands judicial operations effective on June 1 to include the resumption of non-emergency hearings. Criminal jury trials are scheduled to begin again on September 1. Social distancing and assembly restrictions will be in place for any activities in courthouses, including jury trials.

While all dockets are important, priority will be given to juvenile cases and those involving defendants detained pre-trial. Judicial Bureau hearings will begin again on June 1, in the discretion of the State Court Administrator.

The Supreme Court declared a Judicial Emergency on March 16, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. The Order, which became effective on March 17, postponed superior court hearings in all but the most urgent cases—those most profoundly impacting individuals’ personal liberty, safety, and family attachments. In addition, in those cases, the Court sought to maximize the use of remote audio and video to minimize the number of individuals congregating for a hearing. All jury trials and all Judicial Bureau hearings were suspended, and the Court relaxed rules and procedures regarding court filings to allow individuals to use email for most court filings. The Court also adopted emergency procedures regarding timelines and access to court buildings.  

A committee, Chaired by Associate Justice Harold Eaton, was formed at the request of Chief Justice Paul Reiber to make recommendations to the Court about a transition back to full operations. The Report addresses the opportunities and constraints posed by Judiciary budget issues, technology needs, staffing, and facilities in a time of social distancing.