Courts to Remain Open; Limited Attendance

On March 13, 2020, the President of the United States declared a national emergency due to the outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19). The Mississippi Supreme Court and its Chief Justice, in his capacity as the chief administrative officer of all courts in the State of Mississippi, ordered, among other things, that all state courts – municipal, justice, county, chancery, circuit, and appellate courts – remain open for business to ensure courts fulfill their constitutional and statutory duties. See Miss. Const. Art. 3, §§ 24, 25, 26, and 26A. The Order further provided that the Courts should continue normal business matters as much as possible and that any orders from trial courts contrary to the Order were vacated to that extent. See IN RE: EMERGENCY ORDER RELATED TO CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19). Given the above, all state courts, including the circuit and chancery clerk’s offices are expected to remain “open.”

On March 15, 2020, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), addressing the national emergency declared by the President on March 13, 2020, issued its “Interim Guidance for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).” Specifically, the CDC recommended the cancellation or postponement of all in-person events that consist of 50 people or more for the next eight weeks (until May 8, 2020), because such events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19. To comply with the CDC’s Interim Guidance of March 15, 2020, the Mississippi Supreme Court issued an additional order which prohibits courts from permitting gatherings of more than 50 people beyond the persons involved in the day-to-day operations of the courts. The Order further provided that courts may not conduct any proceedings that require witnesses or parties to travel from an infected area or that involve vulnerable persons, increasing the chances of transmission of the disease. See IN RE: EMERGENCY ORDER RELATED TO CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19): EMERGENCY ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER–2.