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Most court activities suspended during emergency

SoVaNow.com / March 18, 2020
On Monday, Chief Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court Donald Lemons, declared a Judicial State of Emergency and ordered all non-essential, non-emergency court proceedings in all circuit and district courts to be suspended for at least the next 21 days.

In the same order, Lemons extended all civil, criminal and traffic matters, including jury cases for the same 21-day period, except for emergency matters such as quarantine or isolation hearings, arraignments, bail reviews, protective order cases, emergency child custody or protection cases, and civil commitment hearings.

The order gives local judges the discretion to move forward with ongoing jury trials or cases where the defendant is currently incarcerated.

Other conditions imposed by the order call for:

» Continuing all ceremonies, such as juvenile licensing ceremonies;

» Limiting courtroom attendance to attorneys, parties, and necessary witnesses and members of the press in any matters that cannot be continued;

» Issuing summonses in lieu of a capias for failure to appear;

» Excusing or postponing jury duty for those who are ill, caring for someone who is ill, or in a high-risk category as defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC);

» Suspending new juror orientations;

» Requiring attorneys to use e-Filing if available, instead of in-person filing of documents;

» Requiring individuals with legitimate court business who are ill, caring for someone who is ill, or otherwise in a high-risk category to call the local clerk of court or other appropriate court personnel to request an appropriate accommodation;

» Prohibiting individuals or groups from congregating anywhere in the courthouse, and to require social distancing throughout the courthouse, including inside the courtroom;

» Using telephonic or video technology, as provided in the Code of Virginia, for all necessary hearings, trials, or other matters, including arraignments; and

» Posting signage at all public entry points advising individuals not to enter the building if within the past 14 days they visited high-risk countries such as China, Iran, South Korea, or any European country or any domestic U.S. area where the disease has spread; come into contact with anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19; are currently are experiencing symptoms associated with the disease such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath.

Individuals attempting to enter the court in violation of these protocols may be denied entrance by a bailiff or court security officer, and may be directed to contact the clerk’s office by telephone or other remote means to inform the clerk of their business before the court so as to receive further instruction regarding alternate arrangements for court access.

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