On March 23, 2020, Governor Eric Holcomb issued a stay-at-home order requiring residents of Indiana to stay at home unless they are at work or doing permitted activities like caring for someone, obtaining needed supplies, or for health and safety. He extended the order on April 6, 2020, leaving Hoosiers at home through April 20, 2020, in response to the spread of COVID-19. While attorneys are considered “essential” workers, this still leaves many questions about how courts will operate over the next few months. If you need to conduct business at an Indiana court or are involved in a criminal or civil trial, you may wonder where this order leaves you.
Throughout Indiana, trial courts have filed emergency petitions for relief under Administrative Rule 17. Rule 17 allows trial courts to petition the Indiana Supreme Court for relief in emergencies. You can find a listing of all trial court petitions, and the orders granted for relief, on the Indiana Judicial Branch webpage.
In Indianapolis, Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush issued emergency orders for Marion County Circuit and Superior Courts on March 13, 2020, and March 23, 2020. In the order, Chief Justice Rush continued or delayed civil trials from March 16, 2020, to May 1, 2020. The order also delayed criminal trials where the defendant isn’t in custody, and where the defendant is in custody if it won’t violate the rights of the defendant.
The order will also permit courts to conduct remote hearings by video or teleconference, including initial hearings, bond reviews, and dispositive hearings that can decide or dismiss a case.
Federal chief district court judges in Indiana are now temporarily allowing remote video and telephone access for criminal proceedings if the defendant consents. Federal courts are also permitting teleconference access for public and media access to court proceedings.