Tuesday, April 07, 2020

COVID-19 Emergency Response and Information by the Supreme Court of West Virginia, West Virginia State Bar and Other Legal Agencies UPDATED 4/27/2020

Written by Bob Coffield, Flaherty Sensabaugh Bonasso PLLC

As a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Supreme Court of West Virginia, the West Virginia State Bar and other state agencies have taken various actions and issued orders in response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Below are website resources, orders and summary of some of the actions taken in response. This list is not comprehensive and is likely subject to change in the coming days and months. Please advise me of any additional information or resources in the comments. Thanks to the West Virginia State Bar Blast for pushing out some of this information. I recommend that lawyers and law firms providing legal services in West Virginia regularly check the websites of both the Supreme Court and the West Virginia Bar for the latest updated information.
  • Supreme Court of West Virginia - Pandemic Response Documents. The following documents are being issued to govern operations by courts throughout the State of West Virginia in order to protect the health and well-being of court employees, litigants, witnesses, jurors, attorneys, and the general public. 
    • Temporary Order Regarding Civil Litigation and Rules of Civil Procedure in Circuit Court, Docket No. 20-Rules-04, April 24, 2020. This Temporary Order, "temporarily amend[s] certain rules governing the conduct of civil litigation under the West Virginia Rules of Civil Procedure. Access to the courts requires that parties have the ability to conduct proceedings in civil cases, including hearings, depositions and meditations, as long as such proceedings are conducted remotely and consistent with the consent requirements and authority of the judicial officer to determine the reasonableness of a party's refusal to consent, as contained in the Second Amended Order." Lawyers currently handling litigation matters in West Virginia should consult this Temporary Order. The Temporary Order contains significant details on holdings hearings, motions, written discovery, depositions, etc. 
    • Administrative Order re: Judicial Emergency Declared, Second Amended Order, April 22, 2020. This Second Amended Order extends the March 22, 2020 Administrative Order and adjusts the emergency order for deadlines set to expire between March 23, 2020 and May 15, 2020, and extended through May 18, 2020, for all 55 counties in West Virginia. The Second Amended Order further provides other direction regarding limited emergency proceedings and affirmatively states that circuit court judges, family court judges, and magistrates may conduct hearings, proceedings, or bench trials via telephone or video conferencing in non-emergency matters upon mutual consent of the parties. 
    • Administrative Order Re: Judicial Emergency Declared, March 22, 2020. This Administrative Order declares a judicial emergency in all 55 counties in West Virginia from March 23, 2020 through April 10, 2020. Pursuant to West Virginia Code 2-2-2(a), all proceedings and court deadlines, except emergency proceedings, directed to take place or any act required to be done on any day falling within this period of judicial emergency, are stayed. Deadlines in court rules, statutes, ordinances, administrative rules, scheduling orders, or otherwise that are set to expire between March 23, 2020 and April 10, 2020, are extended to April 11, 2020. Statutes of limitations and statues of repose that would expire during such period are extended to April 11, 2020. Proceedings previously scheduled between these dates are continued generally until a later date determined by the presiding judicial officer. The Court may extend this order in the event the public health crisis continues. 
    • Administrative Order, Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, March 16, 2020. This Administrative Order applies to all courts of West Virginia from March 16, 2020 through April 10, 2020, and requires that all civil and criminal trials, and jury orientations scheduled during this time shall be continued generally, except where a criminal defendant's speedy trial rights may preclude continuation. The Administrative Order outlines emergency matters, including domestic violence petitions, child abuse and neglect petitions, mental hygiene petitions. Further, it provides that all hearings shall either be postponed or held by telephonic or video technology. Judicial office or clerk's offices around the state shall remain accessible by telephone and email to the extent possible if closed to the public. 
    • COVID-19 Planning Document, Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, March 12, 2020. This document provides direction from the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia to all court systems, court affiliates, and court personnel throughout West Virginia, The Courts and the judicial system shall remain open and function as normally as possible absent specific direction from the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia.
  • West Virginia State Bar - WV State Bar COVID-19 Response Plan (Updated March 20, 2020). This provides lawyers, law firms and judicial officers/staff various resource materials related to the pandemic preparedness., including vendors for teleconference/video conferencing platforms, virtual work policies/guides, virtual client services, virtual meeting tips, etc. 
  • West Virginia State Bar - Temporary Waiver of Online Continuing Legal Education Credit Limit, issued March 12, 2020. Click here for full Order In re: Temporary Waiver of Online CLE Credit Limitation, No.20-Rules-02. The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia granted a request from the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Commission for a temporary waiver of current CLE rules and regulations which limit the CLE credits for online and in-house credits to 12 credits, or half of the mandatory continuing legal education requirements. Attorneys will now be able to earn all or any portion of the required 24 CLE credit minimum through video, audio, correspondence, telephone seminars, computer-based training courses and in-house instruction, so long as the courses otherwise satisfy the requirements of the CLE rules and regulations and are approved for CLE credit in West Virginia. The temporary waiver is limited to the 2018-2020 reporting period ending June 30, 2020. 
  • West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation COVID-19 Policy. The West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation has suspended all non-lawyer visitation at all West Virginia correctional facilities.  Attorneys will still be able to visit their client in person, but will be subject to a screening process (questions and observation) to determine if they have symptoms of the Coronavirus.  Attorneys that do not want to consult or visit in person may meet with their client via video conferencing.  The attorney will need to make arrangement with the correctional facility.
  • Social Security Administration COVID-19 Policy. The Social Security Committee Chairperson has advised the State Bar that in an effort to stop the spread of Coronavirus/ COVID - 19, the Social Security Administration, Office of Hearings Operations, Charleston, WV closed to the public on March 17, 2020 until further notice.  We will be reaching out proactively to our patrons to discuss options for continuing holding scheduled hearings. We will be offering telephone hearings whenever possible. We will also provide video hearings if the representative has a Representative Video Unit and we are able to continue with the hearing via video in one of our local offices.

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