By: Michael Lehr and John Whitbeck

[6.8.2020] Virginia Courts have been greatly impacted by COVID-19 just like everything else. On March 16, 2020, Chief Justice Donald Lemons of the Supreme Court of Virginia entered an Order declaring a “judicial emergency” as a result of COVID-19.  With exception to a narrow range of emergency proceedings, the Order basically stopped all civil cases in Virginia courts until April 6, 2020.  The Virginia Supreme Court has since extended the judicial emergency twice, with the current expiration date being May 17, 2020.

So what does this mean for your pending case or lawsuit you are about to file?  Well first, it means that you cannot get into a courthouse to litigate anything shore of an emergency until at least May 17. Second, this means there will be a tremendous delay in your civil case because all of the cases between March 16, 2020, and May 17, 2020, will have to be rescheduled.  You should talk to an attorney immediately if your case was scheduled for a time during the judicial emergency period or if you need to file a lawsuit during this period to find out how you are affected.

Here are some notable positives in the Judicial Emergency Order:

  1. All civil, traffic and criminal matters, including jury trials, except for emergency and other matters as provided by the Court have been continued through the end of the judicial emergency: May 17, 2020. This includes any number of routine proceedings, including but not limited to non-emergency: warrants in debt, unlawful detainers, issuance of garnishments, and writs of eviction. So, if you are facing eviction, garnishment of your wages, etc, you may have a slight reprieve.
  2. The judicial emergency order talks about the possibility that some court case related deadlines and statutes of limitations for filing lawsuits may be delayed. You should be extremely careful with all deadlines in any case so make sure you talk to an attorney before you rely on the judicial emergency as a delay of any deadline of any sort in your case.
  3. Virginia Courts can still hear several types of what are considered “emergency” cases without delay. Examples in the family law area are domestic violence protective, emergency child custody or protection cases, and any other emergency that might arise with your family.  In the area of mental health law, the courts can still hear cases involving the commitment of the mentally ill to inpatient treatment, proceedings related to emergency protection of elderly or vulnerable persons, petitions for appointment of a guardian or conservator, and proceedings necessary to safeguard applicable constitutional protections.
  4. Parties to a family law or any other civil case may also agree to hear any non-emergency matter by a two-way electronic audio-visual communication system.

Contact WhitbeckBennett by emailing clientservices@wblaws.com or calling 800-516-3964 to see how the Judicial Emergency Order impacts your pending case or any future case you may wish to file.

WhitbeckBennett provides social-distancing in-person consultations, private consultations by video conference at our office, or telephone/video consultations anywhere you may be located. We also currently offer a Virtual Consultation Room.