On April 22, the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia issued another amended emergency order extending court deadlines. The order can be found here. The Court’s new order delays all court deadlines for matters scheduled to occur during the emergency period from March 23, 2020 to May 15, 2020 until May 18, 2020. Emergency proceedings, however, can take place via video conference or telephone if the constitutional rights of the parties are not affected. Additionally, the order continues generally all other court hearing dates scheduled to occur between March 23, 2020 and May 15, 2020, to be rescheduled at the discretion of the presiding officer at a subsequent date. The details of the order are as follows:
- All jury trials and grand jury proceedings are postponed indefinitely;
- Emergency proceedings required to protect the immediate health or safety of a party or community still will be held, preferably by videoconferencing or telephone, and will not be delayed or extended. The court has suspended certain rules and restrictions to allow many hearings to proceed by telephone and video conference. These emergency matters that may be held during the emergency period are those relating to:
- Domestic violence;
- Child abuse and neglect upon the initial removal, where there is immediate threat to the health or safety of a child, or a non-contested final disposition where family reunification is anticipated;
- Infant guardianship;
- Physical custody 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;
- Matters initiated by public health or government officials to enforce orders related to the coronavirus (“COVID-19”) crisis.
- Hearings, proceedings, or bench trials in “non-emergency” proceedings also may be held with mutual agreement of the parties, where an agreement shall not be unreasonably withheld, via telephone or video conference. A judicial officer also may set deadlines related to those hearings, proceedings, or bench trials. Notwithstanding the authorization contained therein, except in cases where there would be significant harm if the proceeding were to be delayed, proceedings related to wrongful occupation and evictions shall not be held prior to May 18, 2020.
- Except those proceedings authorized to take place under the order, all proceedings otherwise directed to take place during the emergency period of March 23, 2020 through May 15, 2020 are stayed and will be rescheduled at a later date to be determined 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 from March 23, 2020 to May 15, 2020 are extended to May 18, 2020. Deadlines relating to the emergency matters set forth above will not be extended or delayed.
- Only those deadlines, statutes of limitations, and statutes of repose that are set to expire during the period from March 23, 2020 to May 15, 2020 will be extended to May 18, 2020.
- To the extent that use of technology such as videoconferencing 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 Court further ordered that each chief circuit judge and each chief family court judge shall have the responsibility to ensure that all of these functions are carried out remotely to the greatest extent possible to reduce the number of employees in a courthouse at any given time. The chief circuit judge and the chief family court judge shall develop a plan to ensure that the public has continued access to the judicial system. The chief circuit judge shall provide a copy of the schedule and communication plan to the Administrative Director of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.