The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia issued an administrative order on Sunday, March 22 that covers public health and safety concerns related to the coronavirus (“COVID-19”). In it, the Court recognizes “the current COVID-19 crisis creates an unprecedented public health emergency that requires immediate action to encourage effective social distancing and reduce the need for people to leave their homes to protect the health and safety of the citizens of West Virginia; and the…desires to balance public health with the constitutional mandate that our courts continue to function for our citizens.”
The administrative order goes on to state that “in order to protect the health and well-being of court employees, litigants, witnesses, jurors, attorneys, and the general public, a judicial emergency is declared” for March 23 through April 10, 2020, in all 55 counties in West Virginia. Pursuant to W. Va. Code §2-2-2(a), all proceedings including jury trials and court deadlines that are directed to be done within this period of judicial emergency are stayed, except the emergency proceedings described below. Deadlines set forth in court rules, statutes, ordinances, administrative rules, scheduling orders, or otherwise that would have expired between March 23 and April 10, 2020, are extended to April 11, 2020. Statutes of limitations and statutes of repose that would otherwise expire during the period of judicial emergency also are extended to April 11, 2020. Deadlines, statutes of limitations, and statutes of repose that fall outside of the judicial emergency period are not extended or tolled by the order.
Those proceedings previously scheduled during the period of judicial emergency are continued until a later date that will be determined by the presiding judicial officer. The Court noted that it may extend this order in the event that the public health crisis continues.
What does this all mean? This means that proceedings scheduled during the period of March 23, 2020 through April 10, 2020 are continued generally until the presiding judge decides as to when to reschedule the matter or hearing. This also means that any court deadlines that are set to expire during the period of March 23, 2020 through April 10, 2020 are extended to April 11, 2020. The administrative order also sets out exceptions for emergency matters that may take place during this time period, such as:
- domestic violence;
- child abuse and neglect only upon the initial removal 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, and criminal preliminary hearings;
- mental hygiene; and
- matters initiated by public health officials to enforce orders related to the COVID-19 crisis are not limited by this order.