March 23, 2020
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Maine courts cut back public hours to limit spread of coronavirus

Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
The Penobscot Judicial Center in Bangor is seen in this Nov. 21, 2019, file photo.

As of noon Sunday, March 22, 89 Maine residents have been confirmed positive for the coronavirus, according to the state. Click here for the latest coronavirus news, which the BDN has made free for the public. You can support this mission by purchasing a digital subscription.

State and federal courts in Maine are reducing operations to help reduce community transmission of the coronavirus and to protect employees who interact with the public.

Courthouses will remain open and sufficiently staffed to ensure access for those who request protection from personal violence and whose liberty interests are at stake, according to a statement issued Sunday by the judicial branch.

Last week, the Maine judiciary announced it was continuing nearly all civil and criminal matters until May 1 due to the virus outbreak.

The hours state courthouses will be open this week varies widely. People are asked to check the court system’s website or call 753-2999 before going to a courthouse. Hours could be adjusted later in the week and again next month.

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The York County Superior Courthouse in Alfred will be closed this week to be cleaned and sanitized following a report of possible exposure by individuals who work in and around the courthouse, the statement said. At this time, no one has tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, according to the judiciary.

The Franklin County Courthouse in Farmington also will be closed this week but a reason has not been given for its shutdown.

In Augusta, the Capital Judicial Center will reopen Monday after being closed Friday for cleaning and sanitation after a Kennebec County assistant district attorney tested positive for the coronavirus.

The court system is encouraging the use of video conferencing whenever possible and allowing motions in criminal, child protection and mental health matters to be filed by email. Hard copies must also be mailed to clerks’ offices.

Many people pay their fines at courthouses in person with cash rather than by check or online. For people who are unable to pay their fines, the courts are extending the dates that defendants owe for fines, fees, restitution and attorney fee reimbursements in criminal cases into the month of May. The exact dates are expected to be announced Monday.

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The federal courts in Portland and Bangor are open but the clerks’ offices will be closed to the public. A dropbox has been provided for those who are unable to file documents online or by mail.

The few items on the calendar for the next two weeks primarily are pre-sentencing conferences among judges, attorneys and probation officers which are being held by telephone.

If hearings are held, such as a first appearance for defendants arrested on federal charges, the public must obtain permission from the presiding judge to attend.


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