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Chief justice declares judicial emergency

Virginia Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald W. Lemons has suspended all non-essential, non-emergency proceedings in all Virginia circuit and district courts through April 6. His March 16 order declared a judicial emergency pursuant to Va. Code § 17.1-330.

The Supreme Court order directed courts to 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, the order said.

Courts are to limit courtroom attendance to attorneys, parties and necessary witnesses and members of the press in any matters that cannot be continued, the order said.

For jury trials that cannot be continued, courts are to 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 CDC.

There are other terms to the order. It is available through a link on the home page of Virginia’s Judicial System, http://www.courts.state.va.us/main.htm. The home page also has a link to announcements from some individual courts.

Eastern District

All civil and criminal proceedings in the Eastern District federal courts, including court appearances, trials, hearings and settlement conferences scheduled from March 17 to March 31 are postponed and continued, according to an order issued March 16 . Proceedings will be rescheduled at a later date unless the presiding judge orders differently.

The two two-week postponement “expressly applies” to a previously excepted Alexandria grand jury, unless directed otherwise by further order.

All filing deadlines now set to fall between March 17 and March 31 are extended by 14 days unless a presiding judge sets a different date, according to the order signed by Chief U.S. District Judge Mark S. Davis.

The federal courts of the Eastern District will remain open for critical or emergency criminal and civil matters related to public safety, public health and welfare and individual liberty, to include initial appearances, preliminary hearings, arraignments, detention hearings and the issuance of warrants, the order said.

The Eastern District is posting orders on its homepage.

The Bankruptcy Court judges in Alexandria have developed their own protocol for court hearings. Parties are encouraged to appear by telephone for all non-evidentiary matters. The Alexandria protocol is posted on the court’s home page.

Section 341 meetings remain suspended throughout the Eastern District until March 31.

Western District

Also on March 16, the federal courts of the Western District continued all in-person criminal, civil and bankruptcy proceedings set before March 31 unless a presiding judge orders otherwise.

All civil and criminal jury trials in the Western District are continued, the order signed by Chief U.S. District Judge Michael F. Urbanski said. The order said the continuance of criminal trials is excluded from the Speedy Trial Act.

Judges may conduct proceedings by telephone or video conferencing where practicable and authorized, the order said. Court buildings remain open.


The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission announced March 17 that all in-person commission hearings and mediations have been cancelled beginning March 17th through March 31st.



The Virginia Bar Association is suspending use of its downtown Richmond offices by members effective at the close of business March 16. VBA officials say they will reassess the situation on March 20.

Other courts

For the next 30 days, Fairfax County Circuit Court will hear only criminal arraignments, criminal bond motions and criminal and civil emergency motions as outlined in a March 16 order.

All Chesterfield County courts are closed through March 18, according to orders issued March 16. The Chesterfield  courts are posting announcements with details here.

In all levels of the Roanoke-area courts, all in-person proceedings are suspended, including all civil jury trials. There is a list of exceptions.

The Bedford Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court is asking for phone numbers. To allow the court to continue court cases in emergency situations, Clerk Stacey Arrington is asking for all attorneys and agency participants to provide cell phone numbers.

The Williamsburg/James City County General District Court (but not the clerk’s office) will be closed until April 6, except for: 1) video arraignments, 2) bond hearings, 3) full protective order hearings (preliminary protective orders will be done by affidavit), 4) hearings for those who are in custody, 5) and contested civil cases where both sides agree that the matter should be heard. The clerk’s office remains open.

Local courts continue to post their virus preparation announcements on a list on the home page of Virginia’s Judicial System. http://www.courts.state.va.us/main.htm