Pursuant to Wisconsin’s Constitution, the Wisconsin Supreme Court (the Court) has administrative and superintending authority over courts and judicial system of Wisconsin. The Court also has a duty to promote efficient and effective operations of Wisconsin’s judicial system. Given that authority and duty, the Court previously issued several orders and an interim rule concerning courtroom activity and filings during the COVID-19 pandemic. The orders and rule: (1) suspended most in-person hearings in Wisconsin circuit courts (issued March 22, 2020, amended Apr 15, 2020); (2) continued all criminal and civil jury trials scheduled to occur prior to May 22, 2020 to a date on or after May 22, 2020 (issued March 22, 2020); (3) suspended statutory deadlines for conducting non-criminal jury trials until further order by the Court (issued March 31, 2020); and (4) deemed documents to be filed as of the date the documents were mailed (issued April 13, 2020).
In an order issued May 22, the Court stated individual Wisconsin courts may begin to resume in-person proceedings, including jury trials. However, before such activity can begin, each court must prepare a plan to resume activities safely. The plan must be approved by the chief judge of the court’s administrative district. Only then will the Court’s previously issued orders and interim rule terminate for that court, thereby allowing it to resume in-person proceedings in accordance with its safety plan.
In creating a plan, the Court imposed certain requirements, including: that all persons present in courtrooms, jury rooms and other court-related confined spaces wear face coverings; practices for appropriate sanitation/hygiene of frequently touched surfaces and hands of participants occur; and notices of both requirements are posted in specified locations.
Given the May 22 order, banks need be aware and plan for in-person courtroom activity to resume. Reopening will occur on a county-by-county basis. As such, banks need monitor whether their local court has implemented a plan and prepare accordingly. Court information is likely found on county and local municipality websites. Banks with locations in multiple counties will need monitor each county separately as plans could be implemented at different paces and with different safety requirements. When preparing bank staff who may be required to participate in a courtroom event (e.g., testifying as witness to robbery event or fraudulent check-cashing activity), banks should inform participating staff of the safety requirements of the particular circuit court to help ease any concerns of bank staff.
Regardless that courts may begin to reopen to in-person activity, the Court’s order issued April 13, 2020, regarding when documents are deemed filed is to remain in effect. Pursuant to the May 22 order, the determination that documents are deem filed as of the date they are mailed is extended with respect to all circuit courts until further order by the Court. The Court’s May 22, 2020 order may be found at: https://www.wicourts.gov/