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Maine courts will return slowly to normal operations over the next three months, but it will be September before activities fully return, provided there isn’t another outbreak of the coronavirus.
Proceedings for evictions, foreclosures, small-claims cases and traffic violations won’t resume until at least August.
Jury trials will be postponed until at least September.
Federal courts in Bangor and Portland have not yet announced when in-person proceedings will resume.
The five-phase reopening plan for Maine courts was released Thursday after two online meetings last week with input from lawyers, prosecutors, victim advocates and others who regularly access the courts.
Maine courts are open during the COVID-19 outbreak but have cut back hours and dramatically reduced the cases handled as part of the statewide effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Hearings have been conducted remotely to limit the number of people in courthouses.
Beginning next week, courthouses across the state may open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., but all proceedings will still be conducted remotely. People entering courthouses will be required to wear masks and answer a series of questions about their health and possible exposure to the coronavirus.
Only 10 people will be allowed in each courtroom, including judicial employees and the public. The number of people on each floor will be limited to 50 through August.
During Phase 2, from June 15 to July 2, some in-person matters may be scheduled.
As Phase 3 kicks in, grand juries will be allowed to convene in person for the first time since mid-March. Every person charged with a felony must be indicted by a grand jury unless a defendant waives that right.
Extra sessions in larger counties may be needed to catch up with several months of pending charges.
In-person proceedings may resume in August during Phase 4. Proceedings in eviction, foreclosure and small claims cases will resume as will traffic courts.
After Labor Day, jury trials will resume along with in-person arguments before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, which have been held remotely since April. The limits of the number of people who may be in courtrooms and on each floor of a courthouse will be adjusted, according to the plan.
“The gradual reopening of Maine’s state courts reflects a balancing of the need to protect public health and safety with the need to provide a forum for the peaceful resolution of conflicts and disputes,” Acting Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Andrew Mead said. “This plan represents and reflects our commitment to those overarching principles.”
Watch: Testing at Maine correctional centers