CHARLESTON — West Virginia courts can begin the first steps of a gradual, phased-in return to normal operations beginning May 18, 2020, under a new order and accompanying guidance, the Supreme Court announced Wednesday.
“The Court recognizes that, even though the Governor has relaxed containment efforts, it will be many more months before society returns to some of its pre-pandemic practices,” as stated in the COVID-19 Resumption of Operations Order and Protocols issued by the Court: http://www.courtswv.gov/covid19/ResumptionOfOperations-ProtocolsandMap5-6-20.pdf.
While the Order and Protocols allow certain court proceedings to resume subject to the protections contained in the Protocols, local courts are not required to resume in- person proceedings, and retain the discretion to delay, impose additional restrictions, or to continue to hear matters via video or remote technology.
The Court’s Protocols are designed to mitigate risks associated with a gradual return to normal, in-person court functions, and are generally consistent with federal and state public health guidelines. The Protocols establish minimum statewide standards. The Court encourages local judicial officers to work with other elected officials and administrators in their counties on public health and safety issues. “When a localized outbreak occurs, it may be appropriate for the Chief Circuit Judge or Chief Family Court Judge to issue temporary judicial emergency orders,” the Protocols say.
The Protocols establish a two-tier system of “Green” and COVID-19 “Hot Spot” counties, as designated by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.
Green Counties – those which are not Hot Spots – can gradually resume normal operations provided that strict guidelines concerning sanitization, social distancing and personal protection equipment are followed; however, judicial officers are encouraged to still hold hearings or proceedings via video or teleconferences when appropriate.
Subject to the Protocols, in Green Counties:
In Hot Spot Counties:
Along with the Protocols, the Supreme Court also issued an order that establishes new deadlines for filing of matters and pleadings in cases in which the filing of such matters or documents was stayed during the judicial emergency period.