The Virginia Supreme Court Declares a Judicial Emergency

On March 16, 2020, the Virginia Supreme Court suspended nearly all court proceedings for the next three weeks in the district and circuit courts in Virginia in response to the Coronavirus pandemic and to protect the health and safety of court employees, litigants, judges and the general public.  The Virginia Supreme Court’s Order follows a statewide ban issued by Virginia Governor Ralph Northam prohibiting public gatherings of more than 100 people.

The order provides, in part:

This Order shall be in effect from today, Monday, March 16, to Monday, April 6, 2020, and it is hereby ORDERED that NON-ESSENTIAL, NON-EMERGENCY court proceedings in all circuit and district courts be and hereby are SUSPENDED and all deadlines are hereby tolled and extended, pursuant to Va. Code § 17.1-330(D), for a period of twenty-one (21) days, and all circuit and district courts shall implement the following measures absent a specific exception as listed below:

  1. Continue all civil, traffic and criminal matters, including jury trials, subject to a defendant’s right to a speedy trial, with the exception of emergency matters, including but not limited to, quarantine or isolation matters, arraignments, bail reviews, protective order cases, emergency child custody or protection cases, and civil commitment hearings. Judges may exercise their discretion with regard to proceeding with ongoing jury trials, and in cases where the defendant is incarcerated.
  2. Continue all ceremonies, such as juvenile licensing ceremonies.
  3. Limit courtroom attendance to attorneys, parties, and necessary witnesses and members of the press in any matters that cannot be continued.
  4. Issue summonses in lieu of a capias for failure to appear.
  5. For jury trials that cannot be continued, excuse or postpone jury service for jurors who are ill, caring for someone who is ill, or in a high-risk category as defined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
  6. Suspend new juror orientations.
  7. Require attorneys to use e-Filing if available.
  8. Require individuals with legitimate court business who are ill, caring for someone who is ill, or is otherwise in a high-risk category, as defined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), to call the local clerk of court or other appropriate court personnel to request an appropriate accommodation.
  9. Consult with the locality, including the sheriff, about posting signage at all public entry points advising individuals not to enter the building if they have:
  10. visited China, Iran, South Korea, any European countries, or any other high-risk countries identified by the CDC in the previous 14 days;
  11. traveled domestically within the United States where COVID-19 has sustained widespread community transmission;
  12. been asked to quarantine, isolate, or self-monitor by any doctor, hospital, or health agency;
  13. been diagnosed with, or have had contact with anyone who has been diagnosed with, COVID-19;
  14. a fever, cough, or shortness of breath; or
  15. resided with or been in close contact with any person in the above-mentioned categories.

You can find the Order here:

We are living through an unprecedented event in modern human history.  No one knows how long these government-imposed restrictions will last or what the unintended economic and social consequences will be.  While it is critical to “flatten the curve” and lessen the spread of the virus, it is important to be mindful that there is no single solution to this complicated problem. Remember to be thoughtful of others, support your local community, and hug your family.

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