The Virginia Supreme Court Extends Judicial Emergency Until April 26th, With A Bit More Clarity
The unanimous Order entered on March 27th provides that the court’s and clerks’ offices shall remain operational and provide services required by law, but it continues “all civil, traffic and criminal matters, including jury trials, except for emergency and other matters provided in this Order.”
Three big takeaways: (1) If you have a routine civil matter, it has almost certainly been continued; (2) If you have a criminal matter, and the defendant is not in jail, it has almost certainly been continued; (3) Certain filing requirements and statutes of limitations that fall within this time period may be tolled for the duration of the Order.
The Order also provides guidance while permitting discretion. Below is a summary, and the entire Order can be found here.
- Judges will exercise their discretion in determining whether the matter is urgent.
- To the extent authorized by law, all matters that a court hears pursuant to the Order should be conducted by two-way electronic audio-visual communication, if available.
- Non-emergency examples: warrants in debt, unlawful detainers, issuance of garnishments and writs of eviction.
- The courts will continue all ceremonies, such as specialty court graduations and juvenile licensing ceremonies.
- The courts will limit courtroom attendance in any matters that cannot be continued.
- The courts are directed to issue summonses in lieu of capiases for failure to appear.
- For jury trials that cannot be continued, the court are directed to excuse or postpone jury service for jurors who are high-risk, ill, caring for someone who is ill or under the age of 16.
- The bailiffs will enforce social distancing throughout the courthouse and inside the courtroom.
- The courts are directed to require attorneys to use e-Filing if available.
- The courts are directed to require individuals with legitimate court business who are ill, caring for someone who is ill, or who are otherwise in a high-risk category, to call the clerk of court or other appropriate court personnel to request an appropriate accommodation.
- The courts are directed to consult with the sheriff about posting signage at all public entry points advising certain individuals not to enter the building, based upon their potential exposure to COVID-19.
- The court’s determination that a criminal case must be heard in order to avoid violating a defendant’s right to a speedy trial will be made by the judge on a case by case basis.
- Emergency matters that should be given precedence on a courts’ docket include (but are not limited to): quarantine or isolation matters, criminal arraignments, bail reviews, protective order cases, emergency child custody or protection cases, civil commitment hearings, petitions for temporary injunctive relief, proceedings related to emergency protection of elderly or vulnerable persons, petitions for appointment of a guardian or conservator, and proceedings necessary to safeguard applicable constitutional protections.
- With the exception of matters enumerated in the Order, all applicable deadlines, time schedules and filing requirements, including any applicable statute of limitations which would otherwise run during the period this order is in effect, are hereby tolled and extended, pursuant to Va. Code § 17.1-330(D), for the duration of the Order.
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