Following another memo from the Supreme Court of Virginia, Judge Kevin C. Black announced that most court proceedings in Shenandoah County will be continued until April 26 in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
On March 17, Black issued his first memo directing nearly all civil, criminal and traffic matters, including jury trials, to be continued to April 6 — the end of the first Declaration of Judicial Emergency from the supreme court. Black wrote on Monday that the court extended its emergency order through April 26 and he will follow suit.
Courthouses remain open to the public so some necessary business can continue but strict rules on who can enter are in place. Signs warn those entering to stay away if they have been exposed to COVID-19.
Attorneys are encouraged to electronically file necessary documents and most deadlines have been extended to the end of the order.
Judges will use their discretion whether to continue to hold certain emergency matters such as criminal arraignments, bail reviews and emergency child custody hearings. Some jury trials and grand jury cases may continue as well if the presiding judge determines it is safe to do so.
Proceedings that do move forward before April 26 should happen electronically, according to the order. Almost all communications should take place via two-way video systems but the court also suggests that judges should “liberally” grant requests for phone participation as well.
Courthouses and courtrooms are subject to the same social distancing requirements as the general public.
During the emergency order, courts may decide that public access to the clerk’s office is unsafe and prevent most physical access. Court clerks will have to remain on-site however to answer phone calls and emails. Clerks will also set up a dropbox to allow for documents to be exchanged and, in some cases such as title and deed searches, make accommodations for physical access to the office.
The new order will go into effect April 6 when the current order ends and will extend through April 26.