Updates in red
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.
- 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 until May 18, 2020 or further order of the court.
- 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 for good cause all jury trials scheduled for the jury panels beginning June 8, 2020 through June 22, 2020 and has canceled the jury panel for this period.
- The District Court is closed to in-person hearings until May 18, 2020, but the court will remain open by video and teleconference.
- The Separate Juvenile Court of Douglas County is suspending all in-court hearings until further notice.
- 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 hearings currently scheduled through and including May 29, 2020 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 for the month of June 2020. However, this order applies only to the District Courts for the Second Judicial District. Therefore, jurors are not excused from service in the County Court for the month of June 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 resume in-person oral arguments before July 13, 2020. The appellate courts may proceed with oral arguments using videoconference or telephone conference at their discretion through December 31, 2020.
- District courts shall continue to conduct in-person business for criminal matters that cannot be continued or conducted by videoconference or telephone and emergency matters that cannot be conducted by videoconference or telephone.
- Civil nonjury trials and non-emergency in-person hearings set on or before July 13, 2020 shall be continued or conducted by telephone.
- However, nonjury trials may commence before July 13, 2020 in specific counties if the county courthouse is open to the public and the court operations in that county meet recommended COVID19 safety protocols as established by state court administration.
- District courts may also conduct civil nonjury trials by videoconference or telephone with the parties’ consent. They may accept testimony by videoconference or telephone with the parties’ consent or when otherwise authorized by law.
- All civil jury trials set on or before September 14, 2020 shall be continued.
- Mediations set at a courthouse before July 13, 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 permitted through December 31, 2020 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 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 July 3, 2020 are continued.
- The continuance of grand jury proceedings will extend to June 12, 2020.
- Continuances of other in-court proceedings are extended to include all proceedings set to begin before June 8, 2020.
- Case-by-case exceptions may be made for non-jury proceedings at the discretion of the Court.
- The US Bankruptcy Court for the District of Nebraska has closed all public counters.
- The Bankruptcy Court has adopted an Interim Rule 1020 of the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure that will be in effect until further order. This rule regards designation in a Chapter 11 case as a small business debtor or a debtor as defined in §1182(1).
- The US District Court for the Southern District of Iowa has suspended grand jury sessions for April. All jury trials are suspended through July 6. 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 May 31, 2020. Non-jury proceedings (bench trials and hearings) will proceed as scheduled unless continued by the presiding judge on a case by case basis.
- The Court will begin conducting jury trials effective June 1, 2020. The presiding judge will give due consideration to any party desiring a continuance of a jury trial scheduled on or after June 1, 2020, due to public health concerns.
- All grand jury proceedings until May 11, 2020 are continued pending further order of the Court. All grand jury proceedings that are scheduled to occur after May 11, 2020, shall proceed as scheduled.
- 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.
- Regular public business hours for Court operations will resume on June 1, 2020.
- The Court has implemented guidelines from public health officials:
- If you have been asked to self-quarantine, if you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, or if you have symptoms of COVID-19, you must not enter the courthouse.
- If you have traveled outside the United States in the last 14 days or have had close contact with someone who has either traveled outside the United States in the last 14 days or has been diagnosed with COVID-19, you must inform the Court Security Officers when entering the building and may not be permitted to enter.
- If you are an attorney scheduled to appear before the Court soon and are not allowed to enter the courthouse, you must notify the Court and may appear by video-conference or teleconference with the approval of the presiding judge.
- 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 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.