What’s happening with the Virginia courts?

Posted on May 25, 2020 by Katie Carter

The courts have started to open up. Slowly. Bit by bit. In a lot of ways, it’s super frustrating, even though we’ve been waiting for this since they started closing in March. The problem, of course, is that the Supreme Court really left it up to the individual courts to decide when and how to reopen, so we’re finding a lot of variation from court to court across the Commonwealth.

Of course, things are different here than, say, in the western part of the state. In Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia, we’re pretty well populated; our courts are large, busy, and have fairly complex dockets. It’s not easy, as I’m sure you can imagine, to maintain social distancing in, say, Virginia Beach, Norfolk, or Newport News courts without reducing the dockets to only a limited number of cases, disallowing bringing extra people into court for hearings, and/or scheduling telephonic or video hearings.

As you can probably also imagine, it’s difficult, logistically, to manage. We’re facing all sorts of challenges we’ve never experienced before, and there aren’t easy answers. Even we have to check up on the most basic things (like deadlines for responding to complaints and discovery), not to mention the things that vary from court to court.

If I have an upcoming court case, what should I do?

If you have a court case in late May or early June, it’s a good idea to touch base with your attorney early and often. We may not know the answers today, but your case is on our radar and we’re doing our best to get all the information as quickly as we can. Part of the problem is that the judges and clerks are new to this, too; we’re ALL struggling to find a new normal in all of this craziness!

Be kind and understanding; we’re working on incomplete information, too! But upcoming cases are our number 1 priority right now, and we’re doing all we can to get you the answers you need to plan for the future.

If I don’t have an attorney, what should I do?

If you don’t have an attorney but you have an upcoming court case, you’ll need to touch base with the court directly. Give your clerk’s office a call, and see what information they can give you. There may be long hold times and incomplete information; be prepared to call a couple of times to get the information you need. Is it inconvenient? Probably yes. But can it be helped? Probably not!

I have an emergency in my case. What should I do?

We’re able to file many, many more petitions now that the courts are reopening, emergency and non-emergency. So, if something is going on in your case, let your attorney know! In many cases, we can get hearings scheduled – especially if there’s something crazy going on. Talk to us, and we’ll see what we can do.

We’re seeing a lot of craziness – domestic violence, withholding visitation, etc., — related to the coronavirus crisis situation, and we’re just pleased that we can finally take some steps to solve some of these cases. It may not be perfect, and it may not be business as usual, but its progress, and we’ll take what we can get!

If we can’t get into court, can we still keep my case moving forward?

Yes. Of course, not everything will get into court right away. The courts are hearing more limited dockets, but they also have to reschedule all the things that were cancelled because of the COVID-19 judicial emergency, and they’ll also have to find space on the docket for all the things that were filed in the interim. It’s a mess of pretty epic proportions and, frankly, I’m glad I’m not on the payroll at any of the Commonwealth’s courts, because it would be a bear to sort it all out.

But there’s lots we can do! We’re still having judicial settlement conferences, still negotiating, still issuing subpoenas, and doing all sorts of other things to keep our cases moving forward. So, even if you can’t get a court date (or you do get a court date, but it’s further away than you’d prefer), we can keep working on things.

For more information, or to schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys, give our office a call at 757-425-5200.