Mississippi Supreme Court issues emergency order in response to COVID-19

Published 6:15 am Monday, August 9, 2021

The Supreme Court of Mississippi has issued an emergency order due to the increase in COVID-19 cases and to ensure the safety of community members and all local and state judges.

Chief Justice Michael Randolph issued the order Thursday in response to the rapid spread of illness caused by highly contagious delta variant of the virus.

Mississippi has one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the nation, and the state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, said Friday that 97% of new cases of COVID-19 in Mississippi are among people who are unvaccinated.

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Randolph’s order said judges may postpone jury trials that are scheduled through Sept. 10. In addition to limiting the number of spectators in courtrooms, judges may require people to wear masks and maintain distance between each other. The order encouraged courts to use teleconferencing and videoconferencing, when possible.

Plea hearings in felony cases must still take place in person, but defendants and others in the courtrooms should wear masks and maintain social distancing.

“Any in-person proceedings shall be limited to attorneys, parties, witnesses, security officers, members of the press and other necessary persons, as determined by the trial judge,” Randolph wrote.

The following updated measures have been ordered:

  • All local and state courts-municipal, justice, county, chancery, circuit, and appellate courts-shall remain open to ensure the fulfillment of their constitutional and statutory duties.
  • Individual judges have the discretion to control their own dockets. In exercising their discretionary powers, individual judges are strongly encouraged to refer to the guidance issued by the MSDH for preventing the spread of COVID-19.
  • If not otherwise prohibited, all courts are ·urged to limit in-person, courtroom contact as much as possible by utilizing available technologies, including electronic filing, teleconferencing, and videoconferencing.
  • Individual judges have the discretion to postpone jury trials scheduled through Friday, September 10, 2021.
  • Individual judges presiding over drug-intervention courts are authorized to modify the scheduling of drug testing and home-supervision visits as they see fit through Friday, September 10, 2021.