Due to the global pandemic of COVID-19, a public health emergency has been declared in the United States. Experts say that one of the most effective ways to protect against this disease is to limit the risk of exposure. This has prompted the “Stay at Home” movement for many Americans, but many judicial matters still need prompt attention during this time. Varying regulations have been put into place for the different courts throughout Nebraska and Iowa that attempt to balance the global health threat with the need for continued access to the judicial system. Will your case or matter be affected by these emergency response plans by the courts?
NEBRASKA STATE COURTS
- No Nebraska court shall close unless or until the Chief Justice has issued an order declaring a nonjudicial day, but courts are advised to implement emergency preparedness response plans.
- The Nebraska Supreme Court will conduct oral arguments using technology for its April cases.
- For all appellate courts, in-person oral arguments for the May call have been suspended.
- In the Fourth Judicial District (Douglas County):
- The Douglas County Hall of Justice and Civic Center have restricted public access.
- The County Court courtrooms will continue to remain open with restricted public access.
- However, in the County Court, civil jury trials scheduled in April will be continued to the next available jury panel. Civil bench trials scheduled in April will be continued by order of the Court at its discretion. Civil jury and bench pretrial hearings scheduled in April will be continued on the motion of the Court to the next pretrial date. Civil motions set after March 20, 2020, but before April 20, 2020, shall be continued by order of the Court approximately 45 days.
- The District Court has continued jury trials through June 1, 2020 and has canceled the jury panels for May 4-June 1.
- The District Court is closed to in-person hearings until April 20, 2020, but the court will remain open by video and teleconference.
- In the Third Judicial District (Lancaster County):
- The District Court of Lancaster County will have hearings conducted via video or teleconference only until further notice.
- The District Court of Lancaster County is limiting simultaneous physical presence in the courtroom to no more than ten persons, consisting of judiciary and staff, lawyers and parties, and witnesses called into courtrooms only as needed.
- The County Court of Lancaster County has ordered that criminal and traffic matters currently scheduled with the Court for arraignment are continued for a period of approximately 60 days.
- The County Court of Lancaster County has suspended the execution of failure to pay warrants from May 27, 2020 to and including June 30, 2020.
- In the Second Judicial District (Sarpy and Cass Counties):
- The District Courts of the Second Judicial has suspended jury service, so any juror summoned for grand or petit juries for the Second Judicial District is excused from service through May 31, 2020.
- The Office of the Sarpy County District Court will be closed temporarily beginning March 25, 2020 and some services will be limited during this time, because they are working remotely.
- The Juvenile Court of Sarpy County have continued all matters currently pending to a future date to be determined by the Court.
IOWA STATE COURTS
- The appellate courts will not hear in-person oral arguments through July 13, 2020. Currently scheduled cases may be heard by videoconferencing or telephone. At the court’s discretion, cases currently scheduled for oral argument may be submitted nonorally.
- The Supreme Court has ordered district courts to continue to conduct the in-person business of (1) trials and hearings already in progress, (2) criminal matters that cannot be continued or conducted by videoconferencing or telephone, and (3) emergency matters that cannot be conducted by videoconferencing or telephone.
- Civil nonjury trials and hearings set on or before June 15, 2020 shall be continued or conducted by telephone.
- All civil jury trials set on or before August 3, 2020 shall be continued.
- Mediations set at a courthouse before June 1, 2020 shall be continued or directed to be conducted by videoconferencing or telephone.
- The Court will temporarily allow a person to sign a civil court document electronically with “/s/” followed by the person’s typed full name, or with “/person’s name/.” Attorneys are temporarily permitted to sign civil court documents for their clients with “/s/” if the attorney has received oral verification from the client that (a) the client desires to sign the document, (b) the client authorizes the attorney to sign on the client’s behalf, and (c) the client understands that the signature will bind the client as if the client personally signed the document. Such a signature binds the client as if the client signed the document personally.
- The Court has eliminated notarization requirements when allowed under the Iowa Court Rules.
- The statute of limitations or similar deadline for commencing an action in district court is tolled by 76 days, from March 17 to June 1. (Tolling means you add that amount of time to the statute of limitations, so the statute of limitations will run 76 days later).
- The US District Court for the District of Nebraska has closed the public counter of the Clerk’s Office. The Clerk’s Office will still be available to assist by telephone.
- All civil matters set for a jury trial or an in-person hearing before May 1, 2020 are continued.
- Grand jury proceedings scheduled in the District of Nebraska will continued.
- The US District Court for the Southern District of Iowa has suspended grand jury sessions for April. All jury trials are suspended through May 4. Non-jury trials and other hearings may be conducted at the discretion of each judge.
- The Clerk’s Office will remain open to receive paper filings and payments, which should be placed in a locked drop box at the entrance of the Des Moines, Council Bluffs, and Davenport courthouses.
- The US District Court for the Northern District of Iowa has continued all civil jury trials scheduled to commence on or before April 24. Non-jury proceedings (bench trials and hearings) will proceed as scheduled unless continued by the presiding judge on a case by case basis.
- All grand jury proceedings between March 16 and April 24 are continued pending further order of the Court.
- All deadlines in civil cases remain in place, pending any case specific adjustments on motion from the parties or by the Court’s own motion.
- The Court has limited public hours for the Cedar Rapids and Sioux City courthouses to 9am-4pm.
- The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit is not allowing the public is to be admitted to the Eighth Circuit Clerk’s Office at the present time. The April 2020 Calendar will consist of cases to be submitted without oral argument and cases to be argued through teleconference.
- The requirement for paper copies of electronically filed briefs and addendums has been suspended. The paper-copy requirement will be reinstituted at a later date, and the parties will be required, upon notice from the clerk, to file paper copies of any brief or addendum filed electronically during this period of suspension.
LINKS TO RELEVANT ORDERS
- Appellate Courts
- Fourth Judicial District
- Third Judicial District
- Second Judicial District
- Southern District of Iowa:
- Northern District of Iowa:
- Eighth Circuit
If you have questions about the above information, please give Partner Attorney, Jason Grams a call at 402-397-7300.