The reality of the COVID-19 pandemic is that there will likely be zero civil jury trials, and close-to-zero criminal trials, until the crisis abates. True abatement will not occur until:
(1) there is a vaccine;
(2) there is a great treatment or therapy; or
(3) the virus rips through the populace and we develop “herd immunity.”
None of those events is likely to occur soon. Does that mean that litigation in American courts is going to grind to a halt? The answer to that question is a resounding no. The courts, litigants, and the interested public (represented by the news media) will certainly adapt. Those adaptations are in process.
This site is dedicated to keeping abreast of the ongoing adaptations to the COVID-19 virus pandemic. When the pandemic abates, it is unlikely that all these adaptations will be abandoned. Many will become permanent fixtures in the litigation landscape.
These adaptations necessarily involve the interests of multiple stakeholders: (1) the courts; (2) lawyers; (3) litigants and witnesses; and (4) the interested public. The courts will need to balance and harmonize these interests as best they can as we move forward.
Our firm is located in the Washington, D.C. region. For that reason, we focus primarily on what is happening in the local state and federal courts. We are, however, doing our best to stay on top of what is happening in the courts outside the region, as well as the alternative dispute resolution arena with mediations and arbitrations. Please send news of interesting developments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
DC AREA COURTS
United States Supreme Court
On April 13, 2020, the United States Supreme Court issued the following announcement:
The Court will hear oral arguments by telephone conference on May 4, 5, 6, 11, 12 and 13 in a limited number of previously postponed cases. The following cases will be assigned argument dates after the Clerk’s Office has confirmed the availability of counsel:
18-9526, McGirt v. Oklahoma
19-46, United States Patent and Trademark Office v. Booking.com B.V.
19-177, Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International, Inc.
19-267, Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru, and 19-348, St. James School v. Biel
19-431, Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania, and 19-454, Trump v. Pennsylvania
19-465, Chiafalo v. Washington
19-518, Colorado Department of State v. Baca
19-631, Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants, Inc.
19-635, Trump v. Vance
19-715, Trump v. Mazars USA, LLP, and 19-760, Trump v. Deutsche Bank AG
In keeping with public health guidance in response to COVID-19, the Justices and counsel will all participate remotely. The Court anticipates providing a live audio feed of these arguments to news media. Details will be shared as they become available.
The Court Building remains open for official business, but most Court personnel are teleworking. The Court Building remains closed to the public until further notice.
On April 20, 2020, the Court issued decisions in three cases: Ramos v. Louisiana (18-5924)); Thryv, Inc.v. Click-To-Call Techs., LP (18-916); and Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Christian (17-1498).
On April 30, 2020, the Court announced that it will hear oral arguments by telephone conference on May 4, 5, 6, 11, 12 and 13 in a limited number of previously postponed cases. The Court will provide a live audio feed of the arguments to FOX News (the network pool chair), the Associated Press, and C-SPAN, and they will in turn provide a feed to livestream on various media platforms. The oral argument audio and a transcript of the oral arguments will be posted on the Court’s website each day.
United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia
- Continuance of In-Person Court Proceedings and Extension of Filing Deadlines.
All civil and criminal in-person proceedings scheduled to occur through June 10, 2020 are continued, with the exception of certain critical or emergency proceedings. This includes all trials, hearings, settlement conferences, and appearances.
All filing deadlines on or before April 14, 2020 are extended by 14 days, subject to a future contrary order by a presiding judge.
- Remote Proceedings. The District Court has adopted a temporary policy authorizing the use of video conferencing, or telephone conferencing if video conferencing is not reasonably available, for certain criminal case events.
As the District Court expands its ability to hold fully remote hearings, it will likely choose to conduct remote proceedings for more non-emergency matters, rather than reschedule them for a later date.
As to criminal proceedings, on April 16, 2020 the District Court ordered that the US Probation Office make those pretrial services reports issued prior to a defendant’s pretrial release or detention hearing (i.e. bond reports) electronically available to the attorneys of record, via a special ECF filer login.
Beginning the week of April 20, 2020, the District Court will use the Zoomgov application as an option for judges for remote videoconference proceedings. Prior to the hearing, authorized parties will receive e-mail invitations containing the necessary information to gain online access. For more information, see http://www.vaed.uscourts.gov/zoomgov/index.html.
Live Audio-Stream. The E.D. Va. is concerned about preserving the public’s access to judicial proceedings, which is a constitutional right. To preserve public access to court proceedings conducted remotely, the Court is implementing a teleconference service by which members of the public and press can use a toll-free telephone line to listen in remotely to a live audio-stream of proceedings.
Members of the public, including the press, may not participate in the Zoomgov videoconference, but may listen in via teleconference access using phone numbers and access codes provided on the District Court’s website. See http://www.vaed.uscourts.gov/zoomgov/Steps%20to%20Participate%20-%20Remote%20Teleconference.pdf.
Anyone accessing a court proceeding via the live audio stream is prohibited from recording, rebroadcasting, live-streaming, or otherwise disseminating video or audio of the proceeding.
- On April 10, 2020, the Court issued the following General Order:
All civil and criminal in-person proceedings in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, including court appearances, trials, hearings, and settlement conferences, scheduled to occur through June 10, 2020, with the exception of critical or emergency proceedings, are POSTPONED, subject to the conditions set forth in this General Order. The instant General Order does not postpone any remote proceedings scheduled by a presiding judge in any civil or criminal case.
This General Order puts the federal court in alignment with Virginia Gov. Northam’s directive that essentially locks down most of Virginia until June 10.
United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia
- Continuance of In-Person Court Proceedings and Extension of Filing Deadlines.
All civil and criminal in-person proceedings scheduled to occur through June 10, 2020 are continued, with the exception of certain critical or emergency proceedings.
All issues concerning pretrial deadlines are to be addressed with the presiding judge.
- Remote Proceedings.
The District Court has adopted a temporary policy authorizing the use of video conferencing, or telephone conferencing if video conferencing is not reasonably available, for certain criminal case events.
As of April 24, 2020, the usual requirement that a detained defendant’s counsel be physically present for review of a presentence report (or “PSR”) is lifted, to allow for counsel to participate remotely by videoconference or teleconference.
On May 1, 2020, the Court suspended the requirement that Pretrial Services Reports be returned to the probation officer at the conclusion of a judicial proceeding. Counsel is required to maintain the confidentiality of Pretrial Services Reports and may not disclose them to others.
The District Court’s website provides phone numbers which may be used to access of civil and criminal court proceedings held via videoconference or teleconference. See http://www.vawd.uscourts.gov/court-information/covid-19.aspx.
Statewide Declaration of Judicial Emergency
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia has issued a declaration of judicial emergency, which is currently extended through May 17, 2020. A copy of the latest order extending the emergency period can be found at: http://www.vacourts.gov/news/items/covid/2020_0422_scv_order_extending_declaration_of_judicial_emergency.pdf.
The Supreme Court of Virginia clarified the provisions regarding the tolling of deadlines on May 1, 2020. The Court unanimously ordered that the tolling provisions of the March 16, March 27, and April 22 emergency orders, toll the running of any statutory speedy trial period
applicable to criminal prosecutions in the courts of the Commonwealth of Virginia from March 16 until May 17 or later if further extended by this Court.
Fairfax County Circuit Court
- Suspension of Almost All Matters Through May 17, 2020.
Pursuant to the declared statewide judicial emergency, currently extending through May 17, 2020, the Circuit Court will hear only criminal arraignments, criminal bond motions, and criminal and civil emergency motions.
All trials, including criminal and civil trials, are suspended through May 17, 2020, with new trial dates to be set at a later date.
All Friday Motions Practice is suspended through May 17, 2020. All calendar control matters are to be heard telephonically. All warrants in debt, unlawful detainers, writs of eviction, and garnishments are continued.
Effective April 21, 2020, for hearings starting May 7, 2020, the Circuit Court is offering remote appearance civil motions practice through videoconferencing or teleconferencing if all parties agree.
Judges have discretion to determine whether a matter is urgent and must be heard without delay, to protect certain constitutional interests (such as a criminal defendant’s right to a speedy trial), or a party’s health and safety.
Effective April 22, 2020, the Circuit Court’s Land Records counter is closed to all paper filings. All documents must be filed electronically, with the exception of judgments, homestead deeds, easements, documents with plats, and documents related to multiple jurisdictions.
- Temporary Procedure to Request Waiver of Oral Argument.
The court has implemented a temporary procedure whereby parties may submit motions to be ruled on without oral argument or a court appearance.
- Courtroom Attendance.
For any matter that cannot be continued, courtroom attendance is limited to attorneys, parties, necessary witnesses, interpreters, court personnel and court reporters, bailiffs, and members of the press where permitted by law. Thus, Fairfax County Circuit Court is maintaining a limited right of public access during the pandemic.
Alexandria Circuit Court
- Suspension of Trials and Motions. All civil and criminal trials are suspended through May 17, 2020, consistent with the Supreme Court of Virginia’s Order extending the declaration of judicial emergency
All civil motions day dockets are suspended through May 17, 2020, excepting emergency matters. Criminal motions are likewise suspended through May 17, 2020, with the exception of bond motions and bond appeals, which will be held via videoconference. Parties with emergency matters are instructed to contact Judges’ Chambers.
- Clerk’s Office Closed. The Clerk’s Office is closed to walk-in service, and parties are encouraged to mail in pleadings.
Arlington Circuit Court
- Suspension of Trials. All civil trials are suspended, with status conferences to occur throughout June 2020. See https://arlingtonva.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/9/2020/04/COVID-19-Civil-Cases-4-8-2020.pdf.
- Criminal trials are likewise suspended, with the parties to be heard on the originally set date to reset the date for trial. See https://arlingtonva.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/9/2020/04/COVID-19-Criminal-Cases-4-3-2020.pdf.
- Suspension of Motions and Other Matters. All civil and criminal motions are suspended and may be re-noticed pursuant to the court’s local rules.
- Clerk’s Office Closed. The Clerk’s Office is closed to walk-in service, and parties are encouraged to mail in pleadings.
D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals
- Postponement of Oral Argument. Pursuant to the state of emergency declared in the District of Columbia, on March 17, 2020 the Court suspended all in-person oral argument. Scheduled arguments will either be postponed, proceed by teleconference, or be decided without oral argument, by discretion of the deciding panel.
- Access to Courthouse. Effective March 11, 2020, access to the courthouse is restricted to judges, court staff, members of the media, and “persons with official business” with the DC federal district and bankruptcy courts or the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.
- Effective April 27, 2020, any person entering the courthouse must wear a facial mask.
United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
This is a national court located in Washington, D.C. It handles all patent case appeals; Tucker Act takings cases; and appeals from the United States Court of Federal Claims.
- Remote Proceedings.
All cases scheduled for April 2020 will be conducted by telephone. No in person hearings are being held. On April 21, 2020, the Court announced that all oral arguments during the Court’s May 2020 session will be held telephonically.
The Court is providing public and media access to live audio of each panel scheduled for argument in April and May 2020. The information is posted on the Court’s website every morning. Recordings are also available at the end of the day.
The Court has also requested that any questions to the Clerk’s office be emailed.
- Filings and Deadlines.
All deadlines remain in place.
Filing is to be done electronically. The Clerk’s Office continues to accept documents that can only be filed by paper and filings from parties who are not permitted to file electronically. These filings will continue to be received by U.S. Postal Mail, third-party commercial carriers, or at the court’s night box. The Court has also allowed pro se parties to email their filings.
District of Columbia Superior Court
- Court Operations.
The Superior Court will hear only criminal felony presentments, misdemeanor arraignments (other than citation arraignments), juvenile initial hearings, habeas corpus petitions, initial hearings and removal requests in neglect and abuse matters, and other emergency matters. Most of the hearings are conducted remotely.
All other trials, hearings, appearances, and other matters are continued, with new dates to be determined.
All existing temporary protection orders and civil protection orders remain in effect, and are extended through May 15, 2020 or the next assigned court date. All requests for temporary protection orders remain available through the Superior Court’s Emergency Temporary Protection Order (ETPO) Process. Emergency filings in Civil Protection Order cases can be made through www.probono.net/dccourts.
All evictions of tenants and foreclosed homeowners on or before May 15, 2020 are stayed.
- Filings and Deadlines.
All Divisions, including the Family Court, are open for filing of pleadings. Electronic filing will continue, and the Superior Court will rule on motions that can be decided without a hearing.
All deadlines and time limits that would otherwise expire before May 15, 2020, including statutes of limitation, are tolled and extended during the period of the declared judicial emergency.
- Clerk’s Offices Operating Remotely.
All Superior Court clerk’s offices have no on-site staff, and are operating remotely. Contact information is available at
United States District Court for the District of Maryland
- Public Access Limited.
The public is no longer permitted to enter the courthouse except for litigants with scheduled proceedings, counsel, investigators or employees of counsel, and the press. All persons will be screened for flu-like symptoms.
- Court Operations.
On March 31, 2020, the Court limited in-court proceedings to Mondays, Wednesdays, or Fridays. The Court remains open for emergency criminal, civil, and bankruptcy matters related to public safety, public health and welfare, and individual liberty.
The Clerk’s Office remains open to the public through telephone and via drop boxes located. Electronic filing through CM/ECF remains available.
- Extension of Proceedings and Filing Deadlines.
All civil, criminal, and bankruptcy proceedings scheduled to occur from March 16, 2020 through June 5, 2020 are postponed unless otherwise ordered.
All filing deadlines between March 16, 2020 and June 5, 2020 are extended by 84 days, unless otherwise ordered.
Certain discovery in civil cases may proceed as scheduled, provided it does not conflict with public health guidance.
All State Courts
On April 3, 2020, Court of Appeals Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera published an Administrative Order On Expanding The Statewide Suspension Of Jury Trials And Suspending Grand Juries.
Pursuant to the Administrative Order:
- All grand juries shall be suspended until further notice, subject to any exception that may be granted on an individual basis by the Chief Judge of the Court ofAppeals.
- All civil jury trials in the Circuit Courts throughout the state of Maryland scheduled to begin on or after March 16, 2020, have been and shall be suspendedon an emergency basis pending further Order of the Chief Judge of the Court ofAppeals.
- All criminal jury trials in the Circuit Courts throughout the state of Maryland scheduled to begin on or after March 16, 2020, have been and shall be suspendedon an emergency basis pending further Order of the Chief Judge of the Court ofAppeals.
- Any currently scheduled trial date that is at least six weeks after the date that concludes the COVID-19 emergency period as ordered by the Chief Judge ofthe Court of Appeals will be maintained, absent further order of the court inwhich the trial is scheduled.
On April 8, 2020, Judge Barbera published an updated order that revised the April 3, 2020 Order to include certain additions related to juvenile shelter care hearings and child in need of assistance matters. The order also added a provision regarding the suspension of notices of contemplated dismissal.
On April 14, 2020, Judge Barbera published an updated order that revised the April 8, 2020 Order to restrict court operations through June 5, 2020. The Order also provided additional details related to emergency delinquency hearings.
Also, on April 14, 2020, Judge Barbera issued another order, which requires judges to hold prompt hearings for certain categories of cases in which individuals are detained.
On May 4, 2020, Judge Barbera issued two new orders. The orders clarified the tolling of statutes and deadlines.
Here is a set of answers to Frequently Asked Questions from the Maryland judiciary:
Circuit Court for Montgomery County
- Court Operations.
On March 25, 2020, the Court issued an order restricting the Court to emergency operations, and closed the Court to the public with limited exceptions through May 1, 2020. Thus, as with Maryland’s federal court, the right of public access to judicial proceedings is being significantly curtailed during the crisis.
Certain emergency matters would continue to be heard in person or remotely, including emergency criminal, civil, family, and juvenile detention matters, as well as protective orders.
As of April 14, 2020, that includes bail reviews and bench warrants; arraignments for detained defendants; juvenile detention hearings; peace order petitions for juvenile respondents; emergency evaluation petitions; quarantine and isolation petitions; extradition cases; body attachments; and extreme risk protective order appeals. Other emergency matters may be heard in the court’s discretion.
Any hearings are held virtually, usually by telephone, with videos being used by detention centers. Where reference to documents is necessary, the transmission of documents between locations may be by facsimile, file-sharing programs, or video transmission of sufficient resolution for legibility.
All jury trials are postponed.
Persons other than media are not permitted in the courthouse except in limited circumstances. The Court is, thus, permitting the news media to be the eyes and ears of the public.
On April 15, 2020, the Court issued an order regarding the wearing of face coverings in the courthouse. The relevant portions of the Order are, as follows:
ORDERED, that effective on April 20, 2020, all persons entering the Circuit Court for Montgomery County shall wear a face mask, scarf, or other device covering their nose and mouth, and it is further
ORDERED, that such mask, scarf or device must be continuously worn by those persons during the time they are in the courthouse, and it is further
ORDERED, that no person may ride on an elevator containing other persons, unless all persons are wearing a face mask, scarf, or other device, and it is further
The order on masks was clarified on April 30, 2020: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/cct/Resources/Files/COVID-19-Notices/FaceMasks_and_SoclDistancing_04302020.pdf
Beginning on April 27, 2020, the Court is allowing parties to agree to civil motions previously set for hearings through June 4, 2020 to be decided on the papers.
On May 1, 2020, Judge Greenberg held a virtual townhall for the Court. Below are some of the relevant points:
- Have a skeleton staff which calls for just essential services
- Family division is almost up to date with filing
- Reopening – current order sets date as June 8. Judge Barbera will decide and work with Governor Hogan to coordinate
- If June 8 is the day, the Court may have a roll out that will consist of 2 weeks where Court is open to finish business before public can enter the Court
- Stagger starting times of cases once trials start
- Jury trials will not start at least 6 weeks after 6/8 opening
- Civil jury trials – will probably be 3-4 months after reopening
- Uncontested divorces – will be scheduled
- Discovery rules apply – no suspension of rules regarding answering or replying to motions
- Virtual drop box – set up virtual drop box for discovery and certain other motions
Beginning on May 4, 2020, the Court will be conducting some uncontested divorce hearings remotely.
- Filings and Remote Procedures.
Because the Court normally does not accept electronic filings, it is working on finding ways to deal with other motions and filings remotely.
- Other Relevant Information
On April 1, 2020, the Court reiterated that it was only processing and ruling on emergency matters. All filings mailed or placed in the drop box must be marked as emergency or non-emergency. The Court also announced that it is working on strategies to deal with non-emergency matters, and extension will be liberally granted after the Court reopens.
On April 6, 2020, the Court reiterated that statutes and rules deadlines to hear pending matters are tolled and suspended, effective March 16, 2020. New deadlines are also tolled and suspended. This was again reiterated on April 14, 2020.
On April 10, 2020, the Court issued the following Administrative Order Regarding Electronic Filing:
Having been authorized on April 3, 2020 by the Court of Appeals to use a Virtual Drop Box for electronic filing during the COVID-19 emergency period, and having since determined that use of such a Virtual Drop Box would be appropriate under the circumstances set forth below, it is this 10th day of April, 2020, by the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland, hereby
ORDERED, that there is established a Virtual Drop Box for electronic filing in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland (hereinafter “electronic filing”) for limited purposes only, as described below; and it is further
ORDERED, except as provided below, that nothing herein is intended to limit a litigant’s ability to file items with the Clerk of the Court, either by regular mail or by depositing them into the physical drop box on Maryland Avenue (collectively “physical filing”); and it is further
ORDERED, that electronic filing in the Virtual Drop Box is available only in Civil Track 3 cases and only for motions upon failure to provide discovery pursuant to Rule 2-432; motions for discovery protective orders pursuant to Rule 2-403; and motions to quash deposition subpoenas pursuant to Rule 2-510(f), together with all supporting memoranda and exhibits, all responsive memoranda and exhibits, (collectively “discovery motions”), and no other pleadings or motions of any type or any other Civil Track will be considered; and it is further
ORDERED, that litigants wishing to file the aforesaid motions electronically in the Virtual Drop Box may do so only if they abide by all provisions of this Administrative Order; and it is further
ORDERED, that any motion or paper submitted for electronic filing in the Virtual Drop Box that does not comply with all provisions of this Administrative Order will be rejected for electronic filing; and it is further
ORDERED, that if a motion or paper is rejected for electronic filing, a litigant wishing to file it during the emergency period must subsequently do so by physical filing and it will be reviewed by the Court after the emergency period ends; and it is further
ORDERED, that motions, supporting memoranda and exhibits, and responsive memoranda and exhibits received for electronic filing will be deemed “filed” as of the date they are simultaneously uploaded into the Virtual Drop Box; and it is further
ORDERED, that an Order on a discovery motion will be deemed “filed” as of the date handwritten on it by the Court; and it is further
ORDERED, that all electronically-filed items will be docketed after the emergency period ends, or sooner if possible, with docket entries listing the above filing dates as the “actual filing date;” and it is further
ORDERED, that no paper copy of the Order will be sent by the Clerk to the parties, and it is further
ORDERED, that litigants wishing to file motions, supporting memoranda and exhibits, and responsive memoranda electronically pursuant to this Administrative Order must do so (1) simultaneously; (2) in .pdf file format; and (3) styled with the case number and date of uploading to the Virtual Drop Box; for example, a motion to for a protective order uploaded on April 13, 2020 in Case No. 123456V must be styled, “123456V Motion for Protective Order Filed April 13, 2020; and an opposition thereto must be styled “123456V Opposition to Motion for Protective Order Filed April 13, 2020;” it is further
ORDERED, that any motion not containing a certificate of good faith attempts to resolve dispute under Maryland Rule 2-431 will not be considered; and it is further
ORDERED, that supporting memoranda shall not exceed 15 pages in length, with no exceptions permitted; and it is further
ORDERED, that the Court will decide all motions on the papers, without a hearing; and it is further
ORDERED, notwithstanding any time that may elapse between the “deemed filing date” and the “actual filing date,” litigants filing discovery motions electronically shall abide by all time periods and deadlines established in Orders ruling on discovery motions; for example, if the court issues an Order with a handwritten deemed filing date of April 17, 2020, and therein orders the production of interrogatory answers within ten days of the filing of the Order, but the actual filing date is June 1, 2020, the deadline for production is April 27, 2020; and it is further
ORDERED, discovery motions submitted for physical filing prior to the effective date of this Administrative Order may not be withdrawn and re-filed electronically in the Virtual Drop Box; and it is further
ORDERED, that a signature on an item submitted for electronic filing has the same force and effect as a signature required under Rule 1-311; and it is further
ORDERED, that the Court Administrator is directed to publish further instructions on the court’s website regarding access to the Virtual Drop Box (montgomerycountymd.gov/cct/), and it is further
ORDERED, that litigants filing electronically pursuant to this Administrative Order must retain the original motion or paper until the case is concluded or for such longer period of time as is required by court order or other applicable law.
On April 15, 2020, the Court issued an order allowing for filings related to juvenile emergency proceedings to be emailed to the Court.
On April 27, 2020, the Court extended the electronic filing procedures from only Track 3 discovery disputes to include Track 2 civil cases and also certain family matters.
Circuit Court for Prince George’s County
- Court Operations.
On March 25, 2020, the Court issued an order restricting the Court to emergency operations, and closed the Court to the public with limited exceptions through May 1, 2020. This is now extended through June 5, 2020.
As of April 8, 2020, that includes bail reviews and bench warrants; arraignments for detained defendants; juvenile detention hearings; juvenile shelter care hearings; peace order petitions for juvenile respondents; emergency evaluation petitions; quarantine and isolation petitions; extradition cases; body attachments; and extreme risk protective order appeals. Other emergency matters may be heard in the court’s discretion.
The Court’s website states that it is working to address every emergency and bond hearing that is filed. Remote hearings in front of a judge are scheduled, if needed. Bond hearings are also heard each day.
All jury trials are postponed.
The Court is not a MDEC county and does not accept electronic filings. A drop box is available for filings.
OUTSIDE THE DC REGION
Federal District Courts
On April 9, 2020, California’s Eastern and Central Districts asked the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit to suspend Speedy Trial Act deadlines because of strained judicial resources backlogs caused by COVID-19. The requests come days after the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit suspended Speedy Trial Act rules in the Southern District of California. So, rather than adapt to the crisis, these courts seek relief from congressional and constitutional deadlines because the of backlog they are creating by failing to adapt to the crisis. In fairness, judicial vacancies in these districts are also to blame.
U.S. District Court (New Haven)
On April 13, 2020, former Alstom SA executive Larry Puckett was sentenced via videoconference after waiving his right to be sentenced in court.
The Florida Supreme Court will hold oral arguments using zoom for arguments scheduled for the first week in May, including two cases that involve medical marijuana regulations and a proposal to make recreational marijuana legal in Florida. The Court plans to complete a practice run for those arguments the week before they are scheduled to take place.
On April 29, 2020, the Court announced that it ran several dry-run tests ahead of the first argument scheduled for May 6. The Court warned attorneys regarding appropriate attire:
“Despite this change, the Florida Supreme Court still will require proper decorum. Attorneys in the May 6 cases have been reminded to observe the usual formalities in their dress, manners, and comments even though they will be working from remote locations.”
Florida’s state courts continue to handle essential cases. All jury trials are suspended. No proceedings other than essential proceedings and proceedings critical to the state of emergency are to be conducted in-person. Nonessential court proceedings are to be rescheduled or canceled unless they can be effectively conducted using remote technology.
On May 4, 2020, the Chief Justice expanded matters that will be heard remotely. The order also extended the current suspension of jury trials in Florida until July 2, 2020. Additionally, the order made corresponding changes to some legal deadlines by pushing them back until the Monday after the July 4 holiday weekend.
Appropriate attire is still required. A Florida state court judge has admonished attorneys to wear pants during Zoom hearings. Reported in AboveTheLaw:
See the Court’s letter to the local bar association here:
The above contains a great quote:
But there is no such thing as an objection to Zoom. That having been said, I for one will not conduct a two-week expert-laden hotly contested trial via Zoom; I will reschedule that one for late summer or early fall (if we’re lucky). At the end of the day, we conduct these hearings as best we can, knowing we’re running on one of those miniature spare tires we pulled from the trunk rather than a “real” tire. But it will get us to where we need to go if we decrease our speed and increase our caution and shorten our trip. Resolve as many issues as you can through negotiation and then buckle up. We’ll get there, but it may get a little bumpy along the way. Please, stay safe and healthy … and lucrative.
This is probably good advice for intra-firm Zoom meetings as well.
Kansas Supreme Court
- Remote Proceedings
On March 18, 2020, the Supreme Court directed all courts in the state to cease all but emergency operations.
On April 3, 2020, the Supreme Court amended the March 18, 2020 Order to, inter alia, (1) clarify that litigation conduct is not limited when it does not involve a judge or court employee; (2) encourage parties to meet deadlines if an in-court appearance is not required; (3) confirm that courts must have enough staff to carry out essential functions (nonessential functions may be performed if resources allow); (4) clarify that nonessential hearings may occur, but through telephone or videoconferences; and (5) confirm that the courts will continue to accept electronic filing in all cases.
On May 1, 2020, Chief Justice Marla Luckert issued six new administrative orders to provide updated instructions to courts as the state slowly reopens.
- Other Relevant Information
The Chief Justice is permitted to suspend all statutes of limitations and statutory time standards or other deadlines.
New York State Courts
- Remote Proceedings-Virtual Court Model.
On March 25, 2020, the New York City Criminal Court commenced court proceedings by videoconferencing using Skype for Business and/or telephone (the “virtual court model”). Arraignments remain open to the public, but access is monitored and limited. Special video arrangements are made for criminal defendants.
On March 26, 2020, the New York City Family Court commenced the virtual court model for appearances in child-protective intake cases involving removal application, newly-filed juvenile delinquency intake cases involving remand applications, emergency family offense petitions, and writ applications where there is a court order for custody or parenting time.
On March 29, 2020, the virtual court model was commenced in various counties for essential and emergency court matters.
On April 6, 2020, it was announced that all essential and emergency court matters in New York will be permitted to be heard using the virtual court model. A very small staff will continue to process essential and emergency paperwork. Proceedings for the essential and emergency matters will remain open to the public, but access will be strictly monitored and limited. The New York State Courts are also working on extending the virtual court model to matters that are not considered essential or emergency.
On April 9, 2020, the number of virtual courtrooms was increased for essential/emergency matters.
On April 30, 2020, it was announced that the New York courts have heard over 25,000 cases virtually since April 13, 2020. It was also announced that new motions or responsive papers may now be filed electronically in courts that have electronic filing. In courts that do not have electronic filing, a new document delivery system has been set up. Further, problem-solving courts can now conduct conferences using Zoom. Notices of appeal can now be filed electronically.
- Non-Essential Matters.
On March 22, 2020, the New York State Courts announced that no new filings would be accepted in non-essential matters. As of April 6, 2020, all non-essential court functions remain suspended.
On April 13, 2020, it was announced that the court system is extending its virtual court model to non-essential matters, including tort, asbestos, commercial, matrimonial, trusts and estates, felony, family and other cases.
There is a ban on new lawsuits.
Texas Federal Court
MV3 Partners LLC v. Roku, Inc., which is a patent infringement case pending in federal district court in Waco, is a Texas case involving lawyers from the D.C. Region. On April 9, 2020, District Judge Alan Albright denied Roku’s request for a continuance of a trial scheduled to start on June 1. Roku asked for a continuance because its attorneys in Maryland and Virginia are under stay-at-home orders and might not be able to travel to Texas. In a one-line order denying the motion, Judge Albright stated that it would be “premature” to reschedule the June 1 start date despite the legitimate health and logistical concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Texas Supreme Court
On April 8, 2020, the Texas Supreme Court started hearing oral argument via Zoom videoconference technology. The first argument was in a $1.7 billion negligence case. The oral arguments were live streamed on YouTube.
On April 27, 2020, the Court clarified many of its existing orders. The Court expanded authority for remote proceedings to include grand jurors. Further, any deadline for filing or service of any civil case that falls on a day between March 13, 2020, and June 1 is extended until July 15. This does not include deadlines for perfecting appeal or for other appellate proceedings,
Legal Service Providers
There many vendors providing important services to the legal industry. Below is a decidedly unscientific survey of how some of them are adapting.
Arbitration Administration Organizations
The American Arbitration Association and the International Centre for Dispute Resolution
The AAA and its international division, the ICDR, assists with alternative hearing arrangements, including videoconferencing and teleconferencing. Click the link below for the AAA-ICDR Panelist Resource Guide for Virtual Arbitration Hearings.
International Chamber of Commerce
The ICC has studied this issue intensely and issued a long white paper outlining the changes it is making in light of the crisis.
Driven can forensically collect data from virtually any source through its remote collection kits. Data can be transferred using encrypted high-speed transfer technology. All subsequent data processing is achieved using Driven’s secure, virtualized, and scalable processing methodology.
To accommodate remote document reviews, Driven’s comprehensive solution includes software installed on each reviewer’s remote workstation, allowing virtual supervision and monitoring, along with a thorough screening process that creates a secure and productive work environment.
Court Reporting and Deposition Service Providers
Planet Depos has transitioned depositions, mediations, and arbitrations to a completely remote setup. Before COVID-19, an overwhelming majority of the legal proceedings that Planet Depos covered took place in person. That is, all attendees — attorneys, witness, court reporter, interpreter, and videographer — were in the same room. In the last month PD saw this ratio completely flip, with a vast majority of its depositions taking place with all attendees in separate locations. Planet Depos has been providing remote deposition services for more than 10 years and it has hosted webinars for thousands of litigators and support staff to introduce them to the technology and provide training and best practices, including introducing and marking exhibits. More information can be found here:
Magna Legal Services
Magna is offering the following remote services with discounted/ waived fees for the duration of the crisis: platforms with reduced/waived fees for remote depositions, mediations, hearings, and arbitrations. It is also reducing fees on remote jury research (reduced fees for focus groups and damage assessment services), and remote witness prep services.
Below are links to some of Magna’s tutorials for remote depositions:
Using Break-Out Rooms: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ObhtyYaosM&list=PLu6KDpdkgNTPwnT7UDhgYp2QxgU_I1bBg&index=8
Real Time Court Reporting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTVIeKKRj3U&list=PLu6KDpdkgNTPwnT7UDhgYp2QxgU_I1bBg&index=10&t=0s
The legal industry has almost instantaneously changed via the wide adoption of video conferencing technologies such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom. These technologies are being used to conduct firm meetings, meet with clients, and prepare witnesses.
Our firm has been combining video conferencing technology (Teams or Zoom) with evidence presentation software offerings like TrialPad, with is an iPad app. This combination makes it possible to prepare witnesses remotely and it should facilitate virtual mediations and, perhaps, even some kinds of arbitrations.