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Supreme Court extends emergency procedures

The Supreme Court of Virginia has extended its declaration of a judicial emergency another three weeks, through April 26.

The court’s March 27 order postponed most civil, traffic and criminal matters and tolls and extends deadlines, as did the court’s original March 16 judicial emergency order. But the new order gave judges discretion to determine if a matter is urgent and must be heard without delay “to protect important liberty and constitutional interests and the health and safety of the parties” and others affected by the proceedings.

The new order also had more detailed language on deadlines:

“With the exception of matters enumerated herein, 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 … for the duration of this Order.”

The order required the courts and clerks’ offices to remain operational and provide services required by law while maintaining health protections.

The order is explicit about collection and eviction matters considered non-emergency that are put on hold. They included warrants in debt, unlawful detainers, garnishments and writs of evictions.

While the March 16 order stated that judges may exercise discretion on handling ongoing jury trials and cases in which defendants were incarcerated, the March 27 order expanded the list of possible exceptions to the general continuance of cases.

“Judges should exercise their discretion with regard to holding ongoing jury trials, grand jury proceedings, cases where the defendant is incarcerated, foster care cases and child dependency cases,” the March 27 order said.

“The exercise of discretion should focus primarily on considerations of the liberty and constitutional interests at stake, the health and safety of the parties, attorneys, court personnel , and others necessarily involved, and the ability of the court to safely proceed, taking into account the ability of the court to use technology as authorized by law, social distancing and other measures,” the order said.

The order encouraged use of remote communication for all hearings to the extent allowed by law and available technology.

As with the March 16 order, the new edict said nothing in the order precludes the chief district and circuit judges from implementing additional local policies as needed and allowed by law.

In forwarding the new order to members of the Roanoke-area bar, Circuit Judge David Carson added a note:

“I think I speak for all of the judges in the circuit when I say that we all appreciate the way the bar in general is handling this unprecedented situation.  We will work through this, and we will get past this.”

Fairfax Circuit allows waiver of motion arguments

Also on March 27, the Fairfax County Circuit Court established a procedure to allow submission of motions to be ruled on without oral argument or a court appearance.

The plan allows waiver of oral argument if all parties agree, evidence is not required, the parties’ submissions do not exceed five pages and no other motions are pending under argument waiver in the same case.

The order was posted on the Fairfax County website.

VSB office reopens

The Virginia State Bar office reopen ed March 30 at reduced capacity after closing the doors March 24-27.

The VSB said many in-person services would be reduced or suspended. The VSB urged use of electronic communication for accessing many services. Details were posted on the VSB News site.

The VSB has canceled most in-person meetings and events, with limited exceptions, until June 10, the notice said. Most live events have been postponed or will be held by teleconference in an effort to minimize the potential spread of the coronavirus, the VSB said March 27.

“We are monitoring the situation as to events taking place beyond June 10, including the Virginia State Bar Annual Meeting. The status of all meetings will continue to be updated on the events page of the VSB website,” the VSB’s notice said.

Updated April 1 to freshen and fix tenses.