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News & Press: General

Supreme Court Issues Fourth Order About Judicial Emergency

Wednesday, May 6, 2020   (0 Comments)
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The Supreme Court of Virginia today issued its fourth order modifying and extending the judicial emergency. The order lists 14 points.

Among them are the following:

  • Statutes of limitations, discovery deadlines and tolling of deadlines for various cases in state courts,
  • Further encouragement to use electronic, remote means to continue to conduct as much business as possible over in-person sessions,
  • Beginning May 18, 2020, all courts may hear in-person non-emergency matters if they determine it is safe to do so,
  • Court clerks are charged with ensuring that their offices remain open and functions continue,
  • All courts are authorized to accept pleadings, orders and other documents that are electronically signed, including those where the electronic signature is accomplished by scanning,
  • All civil and criminal jury trials are suspended and shall be continued until further notice and no jury trials shall occur in the commonwealth, and
  • Judges should exercise their discretion with regard to holding grand jury proceedings.

Furthermore, chief judges should assemble transition teams to seek to return to normal operating processes and procedures.

The order describes the effect of the pandemic in Virginia courts this way:

"The Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 has presented significant challenges around the world and has proven deadly. The Judiciary of Virginia has remained open, albeit with modifications. The balance between public safety and maintaining current dockets has been particularly challenging. Before this pandemic, in 2019, there were 2.8 million case filings and 3.4 million hearings (65,322/week) processed by the General District Courts in Virginia; the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts processed 466,583 new case filings and held 1,084,832 hearings (20,862/week), and the Circuit Courts processed 483,761 new cases and held 1,131,451 hearings* (21,759/week, *excludes Fairfax & Alexandria).

"From March 16, 2020, through May 1, 2020, the General District, J&DR and Circuit Courts have continued approximately 413,000, 125,000 and 135,000 cases, respectively, to a future date. Every week, with the dockets limited only to emergency cases, adds approximately 60,000, 18,000 and 19,000 more cases to this growing backlog in the General District, Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts and Circuit Courts, respectively."

The need to handle continued cases as well as new ones is complicated by "a significant shortage of deputy clerks for many years," the order states.

"For the courts that were already understaffed, it will be a serious challenge to reduce this backlog while doing their best to keep current cases from adding to the delay."

Read the Order

Find all COVID-19-related judicial emergency orders here. They also appear on the VBA's COVID-resources page under Court Resources, at vba.org/covid-resources.

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