When coronavirus arrived in the United States in March, effects of the lockdown crippled both the public and private sectors. The nation’s court system was no exception, as in-person hearings and jury trials were halted across the country. Civil and criminal cases were delayed, leaving both plaintiffs and defendants in legal limbo for months.
For our civil court clients, that has meant that hearings and proceedings that would normally take place within the courtroom have either been held by video conference or delayed until a later date.
Our OnderLaw team of attorneys and professionals has been hard at work meeting filing deadlines and performing other duties to move your case forward. Despite courts operating with minimal staffing, we have been operating at capacity throughout the pandemic and will continue to do so.
When will Courts Re-open?
July 24, the Missouri Supreme Court announced a plan to reopen the courts based on what it is referring to as “Gateway Criteria.” The court has outlined conditions to allow each court to determine at a local level when it is able to slowly resume a more normal operating schedule. Those provisional conditions include:
- No confirmed COVID-19 cases in the court facility within a 14-day period.
- Rescission or lack of stay-at-home orders or the relaxing of group gathering restrictions applicable to the community.
- Improving COVID-19 health conditions over a 14-day period in the community, including conditions such as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and related deaths in relation to a community’s population density, size of particularly vulnerable populations, and availability of medical facilities including emergency and intensive care capacity.
- Consultation with local health officials or departments concerning changes to levels of court and courthouse activities.
- Consultation with local judiciary partners such as children’s division personnel, juvenile officers, members of the local bar, prosecutors and public defenders, law enforcement and probation and parole.
If each of the above criteria is met, the court’s chief or presiding judge may rule that the court can gradually relax operating restrictions. Social distancing measures, including wearing masks and other measures, are part of the outlined plan.
Trial delays have been frustrating for civil court litigants and attorneys, but they have been more concerning for criminal defendants, who are guaranteed a speedy trial by the U.S. Constitution. Many defendants have had to linger in crowded jails for months longer than expected.
Because of civil rights guaranteed by the Constitution, courts are expected to direct their initial efforts to relieving the backlog of criminal cases first. Many courts normally dedicated to civil cases are expected to try criminal cases for the immediate future. For those who are awaiting trials and hearings for civil cases, such as personal injury cases or mass torts, including cases for faulty medical devices, dangerous drugs, and harmful products, will likely continue to experience delays.
Though the pandemic was unexpected, the OnderLaw team is always prepared to meet unforeseen challenges. We’ve made a promise to fight for you, and we continue to do so despite COVID-19. Thank you for choosing OnderLaw, and thank you for putting your trust in us through this difficult time.