The independence of Virginia courts has been on full display as they respond to the call to limit the spread of the new coronavirus. Not only have state courts adopted a variety of responses in their schedules and policies, they are using a patchwork of public notice methods.
Many are posting announcements to a list maintained on the homepage of Virginia’s Judicial System, which grew to a 41-page PDF document as of Wednesday morning.
Other courts, including those in Richmond and Chesterfield County, used local government websites to post announcements.
Some courts are having local bar associations distribute notices. One lawyer issuing updates for a bar group discovered there was a daily limit on the number of emails the service allowed.
While a March 16 Virginia Supreme Court order declared a judicial emergency and set a uniform policy of suspension of all non-essential, non-emergency court proceedings in all state trial courts, some judges sought to assure the bar and the public that courts were not simply closing their doors.
“We are open for all emergency matters,” wrote Campbell County Circuit Judge John T. Cook in an email to local bar members.
“We will be having necessary bond hearings. (We will try to do these by having the inmate by video). We also be present handling all the administrative duties, including signing all orders. We will continue to set and reset matters through telephone conferences,” Cook said.
The Court of Appeals of Virginia has posted that it will conduct its upcoming dockets via telephone conference calls through at least June 30.
The Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will reschedule argument sessions that had been set for March 17-20 and for April 7.
All Chesterfield County courts remain closed through today, March 18, according to a notice on the county’s website.