Like all businesses and industries, the judicial system is struggling to maintain normal operations as it attempts to limit gathering of large numbers of people to avoid the spread of COVID-19. In response to directions of the CDC, Virginia Department of Health, and the Governor of Virginia, the courts have all issued orders suspending most matters on the upcoming docket, and they have gone even further with civil jury trials where members of the general public are required to meet. The following orders and changes have been made to the various court dockets in Virginia.
STATE COURTS: The Supreme Court of Virginia has issued an Order Declaring a Judicial Emergency such that from Monday, March 16th through April 6, 2020, all non-essential and non-emergency court proceedings in Circuit Courts and District Courts are suspended, and all civil, traffic, and criminal matters, including jury trials are continued (with the exception of emergency matters). It was further ordered that all deadlines are tolled for 21 days. If an emergency matter must be heard, courtroom attendance is limited to attorneys, parties, necessary witnesses, and press in matters that cannot be continued. The following persons may be denied entry to the courthouse:
A person may be denied entry to the courthouse if:
· They have within 14 days visited China, Iran, South Korea, Europe, or other high-risk country designated by the CDC;
· Been asked to quarantine or isolate his or herself by a doctor, hospital or health agency;
· Been diagnosed with or had contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19;
· Has a fever, cough or shortness of breath or resides with or;
· Resided with or been in close contact with any of the above individuals.
In addition, the Virginia Workers Compensation commission has also canceled all in-person hearings and mediations through March 31, 2020. Visitors with respiratory or flu-like symptoms, or those considered vulnerable to COVID-19, have been directed to refrain from coming to Commission offices. Otherwise, the Commission business operations will continue in accordance with the State of Virginia’s recommendations.
FEDERAL COURTS: The Eastern District and Western Districts of Virginia have implemented similar orders. In such orders:
The Western District of Virginia has continued all in person criminal, civil and bankruptcy proceedings on or before March 31, 2020, unless a judge orders otherwise, and all civil jury trials before April 30, 2020 have been continued. Despite these continuations, Judges may continue to conduct proceedings by telephone or video when practicable.
The Eastern District of Virginia’s order simply states that, beginning Monday, March 16, 2020 and continuing through April 17, 2020, all civil and criminal (grand and petit) jury empanelments, jury trials, and grand jury proceedings before any district or magistrate judge in any courthouse in the Eastern District of Virginia are continued until further Order of the Court.
Notably, these shutdown and continuance orders to not include bench trials.
If you have any questions about the court’s orders or have any questions about your cases, attorneys at KPM LAW are available to answer your calls and emails.