UPDATE: SCV POSTPONES JUNE SESSION;
EMERGENCY STILL EXPIRES APRIL 26
(Posted April 21, 2020) There are fewer and fewer slow news days right now, even in the comparatively placid swimmin’ pool of the appellate world. The Supreme Court of Virginia announces this afternoon that it has postponed the June session by two weeks, from June 1-5 to June 15-19. The court may be hoping that the state of emergency declared by the Governor last month will have ended by then.
Meanwhile, the court’s March 27 extension of the judicial-emergency declaration is still set to expire this Sunday, April 26. I had expected that the court would issue another order during last week’s April session, extending the judicial emergency to at least match the Governor’s declaration, which runs into May for now. But as of today, there’s no word from the court.
This is affecting lives, and I earnestly hope that the Supreme Court acts soon. Parties have trials scheduled for next week, and they need to know if they have to be ready for those. I’ve fielded numerous questions in the past week from lawyers who perceive that I somehow have insight on this, but I don’t. Those questions have accelerated today as lawyers have looked nervously at their calendars and have wondered what to do.
No, I don’t believe that the justices will really require litigants, lawyers, court staff, and venire panels to assemble inside a closed courtroom next week, at the height of the pandemic in Virginia. The Governor certainly doesn’t want assemblies like that. But until the Supreme Court acts, it’ll be up to local trial judges to decide whether to continue trials on their own. My best advice for those lawyers is to contact the local court now and ask for guidance. The Supreme Court has taken steps to address its own calendar; the calendars of other courts should be next.
UPDATE April 22: The justices have extended the declaration another 21 days, to May 17. The order is here. It contains valuable guidance on some matters that had vexed litigants before now. This is a most welcome development.