Supreme Court of Appeals extends judicial emergency for all 55 counties

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. – In order to limit potential exposure to COVID-19, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia announced that it has extended its judicial emergency from March 23, 2020 – May 1, 2020 for all 55 counties in the state.

This announcement follows the original order which was placed on March 17. Chief Justice Tim Armstead explained in Friday’s release that the announcement comes as a protection to all residents.

“As our fellow West Virginians continue to take steps necessary to ensure the health and safety of their families, courts throughout our State are also adapting to meet this challenge through telephone and video hearings,” said Chief Justice Tim Armstead. “The measures we have already taken and those we are taking today are designed to protect our fellow West Virginians by avoiding in-person proceedings whenever possible and using technology to keep the crucial, time-sensitive work of our courts moving forward.”

The revised administrative order will limit hearings that will take place during the judicial emergency period to only ones that are emergencies and time-sensitive. Those will be held via telephone or video conferencing to avoid as much contact as possible.

Other time-sensitive proceedings that are considered non-emergency but are necessary to avoid serious harm may also be held, but only if they can be held by means of phone or video and all parties must agree to proceed with neither offering an objection to hold the hearing.

All of the following, according to the release, are to be strictly followed until May 1, 2020:

  • All jury trials are postponed until after May 1, 2020.
  • Emergency proceedings required to protect the immediate health or safety of a party or the community will still be held, preferably by video conferencing or telephone, and will not be delayed or extended. The Court has suspended certain rules and restrictions to allow many hearings to proceed by telephone and video conference. These emergency matters that may be held during the emergency period are those relating to:
    • Domestic Violence
    • Child Abuse and Neglect (1) upon the initial removal, (2) where there is imminent threat to the health or safety of a child, or (3) a non-contested final disposition where family reunification is anticipated
    • Infant Guardianship
    • Physical custody cases involving an imminent threat to the health or safety of a child
    • Juvenile detention or placement in state custody
    • Criminal Initial Appearances
    • Bond Hearings
    • Search Warrants
    • Criminal Preliminary Hearings
    • Mental Hygiene
    • Matters initiated by public health or governmental officials to enforce orders related to the COVID-19 crisis
  • Hearings, by telephone or video conferencing only, in time-sensitive “non-emergency” proceedings which are necessary to avoid serious harm that would likely result if the matter was not resolved during the emergency period may also be held, with the mutual agreement of the parties, which agreement shall not be unreasonably withheld.
  • Except those proceedings authorized to take place under the Order, all other proceedings otherwise directed to take place during the emergency period of March 23, 2020 through May 1, 2020, are stayed and will be rescheduled to a date subsequent to May 1, 2020, by the presiding officer.
  • Deadlines set forth in court rules, statutes, ordinances, administrative rules or otherwise that are set to expire during the period from March 23, 2020, through May 1, 2020, are extended to May 4, 2020. Deadlines relating to the emergency matters set forth above will not be extended or delayed.
  • Only those deadlines, statutes of limitations, and statutes of repose that are set to expire during the period from March 23, 2020 through May 1, 2020, will be extended to May 4, 2020.
  • To the extent use of technology such as video conferencing and telephonic
    proceedings does not hender the Constitutional rights of a party or litigant, such resources should be used in the emergency matters to eliminate the need for in-person hearings or proceedings.

To learn more about and view the full order, click here to be taken to the Supreme Court of Appeals website.

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