CHARLESTON — The state Supreme Court has declared a judicial emergency in effect through April 10 to try to help combat the spread of the Coronavirus.
The court issued the administrative order March 22 to help further limit potential exposure of the virus to litigants, jurors, attorneys, witnesses and the general public. It includes all 55 counties.
“Medical experts have consistently advised that in-person contact should be eliminated in all instances where such limitation is possible,” Chief Justice Tim Armstead said. “We believe it is our responsibility to limit such in-person contact to the fullest extent possible while ensuring that our courts address emergency matters necessary to protect the health or safety of our individual citizens and our communities.”
The court said the order was developed with input and recommendations of Supreme Court justices as well as circuit judges, family court judges and magistrates from throughout the state.
Under the order, the following changes become effective March 23 and remain effective through April 10:
* 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 where appropriate, and will not be delayed or extended. These emergency matters are those relating to:
** Domestic violence;
** Child abuse and neglect upon initial removal of a child or where there is an imminent threat to the health or safety of a child;
** 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; and
** Matters initiated by public health officials to enforce orders related to the COVID-19 crisis.
* All proceedings directed to take place and all acts required to be done during the emergency period of March 23, 2020, through April 10, 2020, are stayed and will be rescheduled to a date subsequent to April 10, 2020, by the presiding judicial officer.
* Deadlines set forth in court rules, statutes, ordinances, administrative rules or otherwise that are set to expire during the period of March 23, 2020, through April 10, 2020, are extended to April 11, 2020. Deadlines relating to the emergency matters set forth above will remain in effect.
* Only those deadlines, statutes of limitations, and statutes of repose that are set to expire during the period from March 23, 2020, through April 10, 2020, will be extended to April 11, 2020.
* To the extent use of technology such as video conferencing and telephonic proceedings does not impermissibly infringe upon 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.
The Supreme Court is continually monitoring developments related to the COVID-19 outbreak and will assess the need to modify or extend the Judicial Emergency Order as circumstances warrant.