As social distancing becomes even more critical during the pandemic, the Judicial Branch continues to make changes that will ensure access to the courts while protecting the health and safety of court personnel and the public.
Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. announced new amendments to the Supreme Court order restricting in-person court proceedings. The new amendments included in Supreme Court Administrative Order 2020-13, dated March 26, 2020, are:
- Extends effective date of the order through April 24, 2020.
- Section 1: Adds temporary child support and in-custody juvenile detention hearings to the list of “emergency or time-sensitive matters;” clarifies that judges must use telephonic or video technology to conduct all hearings, unless the parties are unable to participate remotely; limits in-person courtroom attendance to 10 people.
- Section 2: Clarifies that judges may use telephonic or video technology to hear civil matters that require prompt attention.
- Section 4: Clarifies that judges may use telephonic or video technology to hear probate matters that require prompt attention; also notes that Executive Order 2020-257 suspends all evictions during the State of Emergency.
Please note that Administrative Order 2020-13, dated March 26, 2020, replaces in its entirety Administrative Order 2020-10, dated March 17, 2020.
“The Judicial Branch provides essential, constitutionally mandated services to the citizens of the commonwealth,” Chief Justice Minton said. “Unlike retail businesses, we cannot completely shut our doors to the public.”
He said that since the start of the pandemic, the court system has:
- Restricted court dockets, jury trials and jury service until April 24.
- Required the use of videoconferencing to hold hearings and arraignments.
- Reduced in-person interactions by temporarily discontinuing driver’s license services.
- Implemented a 50/50 staffing schedule in the Offices of Circuit Court Clerk, Office of the Court of Appeals Clerk
and Office of the Supreme Court Clerk to reduce by half the deputy clerks who are working on-site each day.
- Required court personnel to telecommute if their jobs permit it.
You can find ongoing court updates on the COVID-19 and the Courts webpage.