Weekly Zoom Meeting - June 3: How Michigan Courts Are Adjusting to the Coronavirus Pandemic

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services identified the first two presumptive-positive cases of COVID-19 in Michigan on March 10, 2020. That same day, invoking the Emergency Management Act [1976 P.A. 390, as amended] and the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act [1945 P.A. 302, as amended], Governor Whitmer issued Executive Order 2020-4 declaring a state of emergency across the state of Michigan. Its core “shelter in place” provision essentially provided, subject to certain exceptions, that “all individuals currently living within the State of Michigan [must] stay at home or at their place of residence. Subject to the same exceptions, all public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring among persons not part of a single household [were] prohibited.” Persons leaving home for a permitted purpose had to observe proper “social distancing.” All non-essential businesses were directed to close immediately. This State of Emergency has been extended several times; it currently is in force until May 28. The month of June will be devoted to presentations by members of our Club in leadership position telling us how their organizations have adapted to comply with Governor Whitmer’s directives.

Our speaker today, Elizabeth Hines, is a Judge sitting on the Fifteenth District Court here in Ann Arbor. She holds undergraduate (B.A. 1974) and law (J.D. 1977) degrees from the University of Michigan and was first elected to the bench in 1992. In 2018, she received the William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence from the National Center for State Courts. It honors a jurist who “is taking bold steps to address issues affecting the local community,” the Center’s selection criteria declare,  “and who provides model programs for court systems throughout the United States.”

Co-presenting with Judge Hines is Hon. Carol Kuhnke, Chief Judge of the Washtenaw County Ttisl Court. A graduate of Chicago-Kent College of Law (J.D. 1993) and the University of Michigan (B.A. 1990), she was elected in 2012 and serves as Presiding Judge of the Civil/Criminal Division of the Circuit Court. The Michigan Supreme Court appointed her as the unified Trial Court’s Chief Judge in 2019.

The Michigan Supreme Court responded to the State of Emergency declared by Governor Whitmer by issuing Administrative Orders  2020-1 through 2020-14. These Orders set goals and objectives to guide how Michigan’s trial courts should operate in criminal and civil matters during the coronavirus pandemic. Actual implementation of these Orders, though, was left up to local courts. Our speaker and her co-presenter will bring us up to date on how Washtenaw County’s courts are responding to the challenge posed by Covid-19.