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?
UPDATES IN RED
NEBRASKA STATE COURTS
On March 12, 2020, the Chief Justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court issued an Administrative Order. No Nebraska court shall close unless or until the Chief Justice has issued an order declaring a nonjudicial day. However, courts and probation offices are instructed to devise and implement emergency preparedness plans to carry out mission essential functions.
The Nebraska Association of County Officials has asked local courts to postpone trials and hearings, limit participants in the courtrooms, and restrict people who may pose a health risk.
Based on the Chief Justice’s Order and the County Officials’ recommendations, Nebraska courts have implemented the following orders:
Nebraska Supreme Court
The Nebraska Supreme Court will conduct oral arguments using technology for its April cases. The Chief Justice will be in the Courtroom as usual, and the remainder of the Justices and the attorneys will participate in the oral arguments by telephone.
Nebraska Court of Appeals
The Nebraska Court of Appeals is carefully monitoring the evolving circumstances and is considering submitting cases on the April 2020 Call without oral argument.
Second Judicial District (Sarpy and Cass)
The District Courts of the Second Judicial District have issued an order to suspend jury service. Any juror summoned for grand or petit juries for the Second Judicial District are excused from service for 30 days from March 18, 2020. This order is subject to extension.
In Sarpy County, the Office of the 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 (continued to a date to be determined by the Court).
Third Judicial District (Lancaster)
a. District Court
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. This order will be in effect until further notice.
b. County Court
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 Clerk of the Court will reschedule cases for arraignment and notify parties and/or counsel of their new arraignment date, time and location.
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. Additionally, from March 27, 2020 to and including June 30, 2020, the Court has suspended the execution of warrants for individuals with corresponding case numbers included on a list attached to the order.
Fourth Judicial District (Douglas)
Both the County and District Courts of Douglas County have suspended jury trials through May 1, 2020.
a. District Court
Civil jury trials are continued through May 1, 2020, to a future date by order of the court. Bench trials may be conducted on the record in person with no more than ten essential persons in the courtroom at one time, or by video conference. Protection order hearings may be in person with only essential persons or by videoconferencing. Hearings and stipulated matters may be done by teleconference or videoconference at the direction of the court. Attendance in courtrooms is limited to only attorneys, clients, and essential persons.
The Separate Juvenile Court of Douglas County, Nebraska is temporarily suspending all in-Court hearings through April 10.
b. County Court
Civil jury trials scheduled in March and April will be continued to the next available jury panel. Civil bench trials scheduled in March and April will be continued by order of the Court at its discretion. Civil jury and bench pretrial hearings scheduled in March and 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.
Restitution of premises and forcible entry and detainer trials shall proceed as scheduled. Garnishment hearings for exemption shall proceed as scheduled.
All other non-evidentiary civil matters scheduled in courtroom 20 after March 20 but before April 20 shall be continued by order of the Court approximately 45 days.
For probate, all show cause hearings, estate matters, and non-emergency appointments of a Guardian or Conservatorship scheduled for March or April shall be continued. All petitions for emergency temporary or permanent appointments of a guardian or conservator will be held via video conference if available, telephone, or in person at the discretion of the Court.
All adoptions shall proceed as scheduled unless a party requests a continuance.
Ex-parte requests for protection orders shall be forwarded to the court via email or placed on SIGNDESK for review. All evidentiary hearings shall be heard via video conference or in person at the discretion of the court.
US District Court for the District of Nebraska – (Nebraska Federal)
All continuances are extended to include all proceedings set to begin on or before May 1, 2020.
All civil matters scheduled for a jury trial are continued pending further order of the Court. Any civil matter presently scheduled for an in-court appearance before a district, magistrate or bankruptcy judge in the District of NE between March 17 and April 3 will be continued pending further order of the Court. However, any hearing where appearance by alternate means has already been made available to the parties shall proceed as scheduled using alternate mode of appearance.
Grand jury proceedings scheduled in the District of Nebraska will continued pending further order of the Court. Case progression deadlines in civil cases shall remain provisionally set. Initial appearances on new charges shall be addressed to the assigned Magistrate Judge for a determination of whether an immediate hearing is necessary and whether videoconferencing will be used for the hearing. Videoconferencing shall be used unless otherwise ordered and failure to object to the use of videoconferencing shall be deemed consent to appearance by videoconference.
On March 30, the Court ordered that judges may use video teleconferencing or telephone conferencing to the fullest extent authorized by the CARES Act. Additionally, pleas may be taken and sentencing may be imposed by video conferencing or telephone conferencing. Defendants must consent for these video teleconferencing or telephone conferencing methods to be used.
IOWA STATE COURTS
While some counties have announced courthouse closings, the Iowa Judicial Branch will continue to operate. All 100 clerk of court offices remain open to the public during regular business hours. Clerk of court offices and courtrooms are open for criminal and emergency cases that cannot be conducted by videoconference or telephone. In counties where the courthouse or county offices have closed or reduced hours, special arrangements may be required to enter the courthouse.
Iowa Supreme Court
Supreme Court March and April Oral Arguments: The supreme court has cancelled oral arguments for the rest of March and for April but will be deciding those cases. The cases will be submitted without oral argument.
Iowa Court of Appeals
Oral arguments scheduled in April and May 2020 will be continued by separate order.
Iowa Supreme Court Orders for Judicial Branch Operations
All civil jury trials that have not commenced as of March 13 and that are scheduled to begin before May 4 shall be continued to a date to be determined at a future time. All civil bench trials and other hearings set to commence before May 4 shall be either continued to a date no earlier than May 4 or conducted by telephone, at the discretion of the judge. Judges have discretion to use video or teleconferencing for proceedings.
The statute of limitations or similar deadline for commencing an action in district court is tolled by 48 days. (Tolling means you add that amount of time to the statute of limitations, so the statute of limitations will run 48 days later).
For all original notices to be served in accordance with Iowa Rules of Civil Procedure 1.302, 1.305, or 1.306, and where the deadline for the original notice falls between March 23, 2020, and April 16, 2020, the serving party is granted through May 18, 2020, to complete service (30 days after Iowa’s State of Public Health Disaster Emergency is set to expire).
The operation of Iowa Rule of Probate Procedure 7.6 concerning the 2 delinquency of final reports and attorney discipline in delays to estate closures has been temporarily suspended.
Rule 16.305(3) of the Iowa Rules of Electronic Procedure has been temporarily amended to 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.
While a notary public signature cannot be electronic “/s/” or “/person’s name/,” the court has reviewed court forms published in the Iowa Court Rules and court forms published to the judicial branch website to eliminate notarization requirements where 3 permitted.
Northern District of Iowa – (Iowa Federal)
The public hours for court operations in both the Cedar Rapids and the Sioux City courthouse will be 9am-4pm.
All civil jury trials scheduled to commence on or before April 24 are continued pending further order of the Court. 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.
On March 30, the Court authorized, upon its on own motion, the use of video tor telephone conferencing for criminal procedures specifically enumerated in Section 15002(b)(1) of the CARES Act. However, felony plea and sentencings hearings will continue to be conducted in person, although the Court is willing to entertain motions to continue in particular cases.
Southern District of Iowa – (Iowa Federal)
The Court has suspended grand jury sessions for March and April. The Court has decided to suspend all jury trials 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.
Pursuant to the CARES Act, the Court allows video conferencing and telephone conferencing for all events listed in Section 15002(b). Additionally, judges may, with consent of defendant and counsel, use video conferencing or teleconferencing for felony pleas or sentencing.
US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
Effective immediately, the court is suspending the requirement for paper copies of electronically filed briefs and addendums. 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. Counsel should continue to serve paper copies on parties not participating in CM/ECF. Pro se parties not filing their documents through CM/ECF must continue to file a paper copy of their briefs, addendums, and petitions for rehearing with the clerk. The paper copies may be submitted by regular mail or fax.
Additionally, the public is not being admitted to the Eighth Circuit Clerk’s Office at the present time. If you come to the courthouse to file a document, the Court Security Officers will provide you with information regarding where to deposit your document for retrieval by the clerk’s office staff.
The April 2020 Calendar will consist of cases to be submitted without oral argument and cases to be argued through teleconference.
If you have questions about the above information, please give Partner Attorney, Jason Grams a call at 402-397-7300.