Two weeks after announcing that the Kentucky Judicial Branch had formed three task forces to determine how to gradually resume in-person court services, the Supreme Court has released its reopening plan.

“Our priority is to implement a limited, phased reopening that will allow greater access to the courts while keeping court personnel and the public safe through social distancing and other precautions,” Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr. said in an email May 15 to the justices, judges, circuit court clerks and court personnel who serve the Judicial Branch.

Health and Safety Requirements for the Expansion of Operations can be found in Supreme Court Administrative Order 2020-39, dated May 15, and effective June 1, 2020, according to a statement from the Administrative Office of the Courts. The directives are extensive and the main points are here:

• Courts may resume hearing all civil and criminal matters.

• All hearings should be conducted remotely, unless the judge determines that an in-person hearing is necessary.

• If a matter requires an in-person hearing, several safety precautions must be observed, including limiting courtroom capacity, social distancing, facial coverings and frequent disinfecting of public spaces.

• Entrance to court facilities is limited to individuals with a scheduled in-person hearing and those filing emergency protective orders, interpersonal protective orders and emergency custody orders.

• All Kentucky Court of Justice officials and employees and all members of the public entering a court facility must wear a facial covering.

• Members of the public are prohibited from bringing purses or similarly enclosed bags into court facilities, unless items in the bags are medically necessary.

• Telework will be encouraged for any employee who is able to do so.

• Staffing will be limited to 50 percent, unless an exception is granted by the Department of Human Resources.

“Producing the reopening plan took an intense effort,” Minton said. “I want to thank the three Supreme Court justices for their work on this unprecedented assignment: Deputy Chief Justice Lisabeth T. Hughes, chair of the Circuit Court Task Force; Justice Debra Hembree Lambert, chair of the Family Court Task Force; and Justice Michelle M. Keller, chair of the District Court Task Force.

He said that in addition to the reopening order, the Supreme Court will issue specific guidance on driver’s license services and certain court matters, such as evictions and jury service, in the coming days.

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