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
- On August 6, the Governor approved LB 912, which allows judges to permit, for good cause, the oral examination of witnesses by telephonic, videoconferencing, or similar methods in civil cases. [For full text of the order, please visit https://nebraskalegislature.gov/FloorDocs/106/PDF/Final/LB912.pdf]
- The Chief Justice of the Nebraska Supreme Court has ordered that no court shall close unless an order declaring a nonjudicial day has been issued. However, each court shall continue its own emergency preparedness plan.
- Additionally, any party to a case shall notify opposing counsel and the court if they reasonably suspect a participant in a judicial proceeding falls under a category for elevated risk of COVID-19.
- People with an elevated risk of COVID-19 include those who have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19, those who have traveled to a Level 3 country in the last 14 days, and those who have been asked to quarantine by any public official or healthcare provider.
- The latest announcement regarding in-person arguments for the Nebraska Supreme Court and Court of Appeals states that in-person arguments will be suspended for the May Call.
[Please note that if the Nebraska court you are seeking information about is not a county included in this summary, please visit https://supremecourt.nebraska.gov/nebraska-judicial-branch-emergency-status-information/orders for applicable judicial orders.]
- In the Fourth Judicial District (Douglas County):
- September 2020 Jury Panel is reinstated, but it will be limited to some criminal cases only.
- In the Third Judicial District (Lancaster County):
- The District Court of Lancaster County:
- People entering the Hall of Justice will have their temperatures taken and questions asked regarding possible exposure to and symptoms of COVID-19.
- The use of face coverings or masks is required when seeking entry to or occupying the District Court courtrooms.
- Additionally, social distancing measures must be observed (six feet away from any person not an immediate household member).
- 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.
- Exhibits to be offered at a hearing/trial must be emailed to the court reporter at least 24 hours in advance; they will be pre-printed and marked by the court reporter prior to the hearing.
- If multiple hearings are set at or near the same time, only one set of counsel/litigants shall enter the courtroom at a time.
- The County Court of Lancaster County:
- Has vacated the requirement for face masks.
- Has ordered that criminal and traffic hearings currently scheduled through and including May 29, 2020 are continued for a period of approximately 60 days.
- Has suspended the execution of failure to pay warrants from May 27, 2020 to and including June 30, 2020.
- The District Court of Lancaster County:
- In the Second Judicial District (Sarpy and Cass Counties):
- The District Courts of the Second Judicial has suspended jury service. The most recent order states that 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 District Court is open to the public by appointment only.
- 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 have resumed in-person oral arguments. However, the courts are also allowed to conduct oral arguments through videoconference or telephone through December 31, 2020.
- In the Fifth Judicial District of Iowa, which includes Polk County, all civil jury and non-jury trials have been continued to a date no earlier than January 1, 2021.
- 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.
- Nonjury trials are allowed beginning on July 13, 2020.
- The Supreme Court strongly encourages civil court business, other than jury trials, using videoconference or telephone. District courts have discretion.
- All civil jury trials set on or before September 21, 2020 shall be continued.
- Please see the following judicial order for policies and procedures regarding the resumption of jury trials in Iowa: https://www.iowacourts.gov/static/media/cms/Jury_Order_2020_07_22_628AC85FF966A.pdf
- To the extent any limitations period for bringing a foreclosure action or executing on a foreclosure judgment would have run during a federal moratorium expiring August 31, that limitations period shall be extended for a period of 76 days from August 31, i.e., through November 15.
- All cases currently subject to dismissal under rule 1.944(2) if not tried before January 1, 2021 are provided a onetime, one-year automatic extension of the deadline for commencement of trial through December 31, 2021.
- 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 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.
- In the US District Court for the District of Nebraska, face coverings are required and anyone who has an elevated risk of transmitting COVID-19 shall not be allowed to enter the courthouse unless that person is given permission to enter by an official of the agency with which the person has business.
- People with elevated risk factors include those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID-19; those who have traveled internationally within the last 14 days or live with someone who has; those who have had contact in the last 14 days with anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19; and those who have been asked the self-quarantine by a healthcare provider or public official.
- The authority to conduct proceedings by videoconference or teleconference has been extended through September 24, 2020.
- The US Bankruptcy Court for the District of Nebraska will continue to hold most court hearings telephonically and limit the number of individuals in the courtroom.
- The US District Court for the Southern District of Iowa has continued all civil and criminal jury trials through August 10, 2020.
- All those entering the United States Courthouses in Council Bluffs, Des Moines, and Davenport must wear an appropriate face covering.
- The US District Court for the Northern District of Iowa 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.
- Effective August 3, 2020, all those entering the United States Courthouses in Sioux City and Cedar Rapids must wear an appropriate face covering.
- Oral arguments for the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit will be conducted by videoconference for the sessions to be held on September 21-25, 2020 and October 19-23, 2020.
- Effective July 6, the requirement of paper briefs has been reinstated, and the filing of these paper copies is no longer deferred.
LINKS TO RELEVANT ORDERS
- Fourth Judicial District
- Third Judicial District
- Second Judicial District
- Fifth 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.
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