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Coronavirus and the Courts

Coronavirus and the Courts

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting everyone around the country. Businesses, schools, and government agencies are closing across the U.S. Federal courts are putting a hold on nonessential procedures. If you have an ongoing case in Philadelphia, what can you expect? Read on to learn about how the Philadelphia courts are handling the coronavirus outbreak.

Court Appearances Are Likely Delayed

The situation is evolving by the day, so it is important to keep in regular contact with your lawyer to learn how your case will be affected. On March 17, 2020, the Administrative Governing Board of the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, which is the district that covers Philadelphia courts, issued an order officially closing all courts until April 1, 2020. All preliminary hearings, trials, pretrial conferences, and other proceedings will be rescheduled to a date on or after April 1.

The order makes exceptions for certain emergency proceedings, such as emergency protection from abuse orders. Certain criminal matters such as bail hearings will also continue on a modified schedule. For the typical personal injury matter, you can expect no court appearances until after the court reopens in April.

For appearances scheduled after April 1, if you or anyone else involved with the matter shows symptoms of coronavirus, or if anyone reasonably fears being in public for a court appearance, parties to a matter can request that any upcoming court appearances be rescheduled. Parties can also request that hearings and other in-person court proceedings be held by videoconference or teleconference. It will be up to the judge in your matter to decide, but they will likely be accommodating should the number of coronavirus cases continue to rise.

Discovery and Other Remote Matters Will Likely Continue, With Extensions

For the most part, work that does not require showing up in person will continue. The above-referenced order in the First Judicial District delayed filing deadlines in Philadelphia courts for any papers or pleadings due between March 17 and March 31. However, until the judge issues an order in your matter putting a longer hold on discovery or performing any other lawsuit-related tasks, your case will continue. Your attorney should keep an open and ongoing dialogue with the other parties and the court to make sure that all parties are aware of any rescheduling or other delays.

Arbitration, Settlement Negotiations, Depositions May be Delayed

Any appearance in court is delayed, but arbitration and settlement meetings are dictated by the parties. You, your attorney, and the other parties should discuss rescheduling any pending arbitration, settlement negotiation, deposition, or other out-of-court meetings. The court reporter, the arbitrator, and other non-parties likely do not wish to be in a public setting during this time. You may be able to schedule such a meeting for teleconference or videoconference, but any proceeding will likely be delayed, at least while the courts are closed.

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