Changes about Filings and Hearings
The Alaska Court System has changed its operations temporarily because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The following questions and answers explain the general changes that are included in the orders issued by the Chief Justice and Presiding Judges:
Note: Click on a question to expand or collapse content.
- The courts are operating but the processes have been changed so you can take care of your court business by phone, emaill, or online.
- Some courts require an appointment for customer service. In Bethel, Fairbanks, and Utqiagvik, make an appointment using your computer, mobile phone or other mobile device if you need to come in person for court business.
- Most court hearings are remote, with participants joining by phone or Zoom.
- Check with your local court before going in person for a hearing or court business.
- There are health and safety restrictions for entering a courthouse, described below.
If I go to a courthouse, what safety measures do I need to take and what measures is the court taking?
How does a visitor take care of their court business if they cannot enter based on the screening information above?
The court system has provided remote access for most services and proceedings, including:
- asking questions to customer service,
- providing information to self-represented litigants,
- filing documents,
- paying filing fees,
- making online payments,
- posting bail by paying online, and
- allowing telephonic and videoconference participation for many hearings.
Call your local court if you have questions about your individual situation.
As the governor moves through different phases of the plan to open up Alaska, is the court system changing its operations?
The court system has changed many aspects of its operations since March 2020 when the public health emergency began in Alaska. While the courthouses remained open continuously since the pandemic began, the goal has been to reduce the need for the public to physically come to the buildings to keep the staff and public safe. Instead, processes have been created that provide public access through telephone or videoconference to answer customer service questions, file documents, and participate in hearings. These processes to provide remote access to the courts will continue as more types of cases will be scheduled for hearings and trials. For those who must come into courthouses, the court system has safety protocols in place. Read If I go to a courthouse, what safety measures do I need to take and what measures is the court taking?
- All hearings are taking place except some jury trials:
- Trial Jury
- Some jury proceedings, such as presumptive death trials, will continue to be held through videoconference unless a special exception is made by the presiding judge for an in-person trial.
- All civil jury trials are suspended statewide until at least September 7, 2021, except a presiding judge may approve a jury trial in exceptional circumstances.
- Misdemeanor criminal jury trials may resume April 19, 2021 everywhere except Anchorage and Palmer. Anchorage and Palmer will not start misdemeanor jury trials until at least May 3, 2021.
- Class B and C felony criminal jury trials may resume June 1, 2021.
- Class A and unclassified felony criminal jury trials are generally suspended until at least July 6, 2021.
The presiding judge in each district:
- will monitor local COVID numbers and may suspend jury trials in a location if necessary to protect the public’s health. See Order No. 8259 Update Regarding Covid-19 and Criminal Jury Trials
- can decide to allow a jury trial to move ahead during the suspension period if specific factors set out in Order No. 8259 Update Regarding Covid-19 and Criminal Jury Trials are addressed
- Trial courts will follow the health and safety guidelines in the Alaska Court System Conducting Criminal and Civil Jury Trials, and Grand Jury During the COVID-19 Pandemic.
- When jurors come to court, the court will take steps to protect everyone’s health. See “What changes will be made for trial Jury Duty to keep everyone safe?”
- Grand Jury
- In-person jury service for grand jury resumed February 8, 2021 in some locations. Some courts may have grand jury by Zoom or telephone.
- In each court location, the presiding judge will decide if public health allows for in- person grand jury proceedings.
- In-person grand jury proceedings are currently allowed in the following locations: Ketchikan, Juneau, Sitka, and Fairbanks.
- The following locations have suspended in-person grand jury proceedings: Bethel for at least the month of February.
- In civil cases, you should appear by phone or video according to what the scheduling notice provides, unless
- you file a motion with the court before your court date telling the judge why you have a good reason to come in person, and
- the judge grants your motion.
- In criminal cases, you should appear by phone or video unless you
- are attending your own jury trial,
- file a motion with the court before your court date telling the judge why you have a good reason to come in person, and the judge grants your motion,
- are a criminal or juvenile defendant, lawyer, or witness at an evidentiary or sentencing hearing if the defendant did not waive personal appearance, or
- are the victim in a criminal case and the defendant is appearing under one of the provisions listed above.
- If you appear by phone or video in a criminal or juvenile case, the court will work to help you have a confidential way to talk to your lawyer during the hearing if you need to.
You can find phone numbers to call into a court hearing at "Telephonic Hearings and Conference Lines." If the hearing is by Zoom, the scheduling notice will include the Zoom link and passcode information. Read Preparing for a Hearing by Video or Phone.
If there is an in-person hearing, the judge will tell everyone where to sit to make sure people are far enough apart to follow social distancing guidelines. Read If I go to a courthouse, what safety measures do I need to take and what measures is the court taking?
To participate by phone, you need to:
- call 1-800-768-2983, and then
- dial a specific access code associated with the courtroom or judge.
You can find your local courtroom code at Telephonic Hearings and Conference Lines.
Note: it seems calls connect easier if you use a landline instead of a cell phone
If you have trouble dialing into the toll-free 1-800 #, you can also dial one of these numbers (these are not toll-free numbers):
- dial a specific access code associated with the courtroom or judge.
Do not file a motion to appear by telephone. You can just call the conference line and use the associated access code.
There are two ways that the public can observe a hearing, depending on how the judge is handling remote participation for that particular hearing – by phone or video.
Call the courtroom conference line
- If the hearing will happen with the participants on the phone, members of the public may call the courtroom conference line to listen to all non-confidential court hearings using the conference call information in the last FAQ.
If you do not know what courtroom conference line to call, you need to identify the judge or courtroom where the hearing will be held. You can:
- look up the case name or number in Courtview. Under "Events" you will see the courtroom where the hearing will be held.
- starting the day before the hearing, find the courtroom and judge listed on the court Calendars page.
- find your local courtroom code at Telephonic Hearings and Conference Lines. Then call 1-800-768-2983, and then dial the specific access code associated with the courtroom or judge.
To make sure the courtroom conference line is open, contact the local court to let them know you would like to listen to the hearing.
Watch on Youtube if the hearing is being held by Zoom
- Some judges are holding hearings where the people involved in appear by video using Zoom. If you want to observe the hearing and notify the local court at least 72 hours in advance, the court can set up a video stream to Youtube. The video will be available only during the hearing and deleted at the end of the proceeding.
Request the audio recording for a hearing
- For a hearing that already happened, you can request a copy of the audio recording. Please use one of the audio recording request forms listed below, and include a $20.00 payment.
Courts are now accepting most documents by email or fax, including the documents filed to start a case. You can read the Email and Fax Filing Instructions.
You may sign your documents electronically.
You can sign your court documents with an e-signature by typing “s” and then typing your name between forward slashes. For example:
If you need to have your signature notarized and do not have any access to a notary public, you can explain your situation to the court by filling out and filing the Self-Certification (No Notary Available) form.
If you do not have any access to a notary public, you can explain your situation to the court by filling out and filing:
If you have a civil case (your case number ends with “CI”), you should send all documents to the other side by email after the case has started (there are different requirements for serving a complaint and summons to start a case). If the other side does not have email, you can mail the other side their copy.
At the end of the document you file with the court, you need to fill out the certificate of service section and state that you served the other side by email. An example.
You are required to give the court and the other side your email address; remember to check your email regularly. If you don’t have an email address, be sure the court and the other side have your current address and check your mail regularly.
For more information about service, read about serving the other side.
Can I still send the complaint and documents to start my case to the other side by certified mail if the post office signs the green card?
Civil Rule 4 requires that the person starting the case send the other side a copy of the documents filed in court by certified mail or a process server. Usually the person receiving the certified mail must sign the green card showing receipt of the mail. During the COVID-19 pandemic, postal carriers are signing the certified mail green card instead of the person receiving the mail. The court has temporarily changed the rule to accept the green card signed by the postal carrier during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Who signs the certified mail green card is only an issue if you file for a default judgment because the other side does not file an answer responding to your complaint. In that situation, the judge may ask you questions to be sure the other side knew about the court case by receiving the documents you filed. Be prepared to tell the court any information you have about the other side getting your papers. For example, if you started a divorce case and your spouse emailed you about the papers, tell the judge and attach a copy of the email to your Default Application. If you want to be sure the other side receives a copy of your documents, you can use a process server, but that costs up to $65. List of authorized process servers.
Yes. If you need to ask the court for more time you can ask the judge by filing a motion. You can read about motions.