The economic impact of the coronavirus, COVID – 19, on regular people is far reaching. Restaurants are closed. Grocery shelves are bare. Flights are cancelled, and streets are empty because people are staying home. Such a scenario is bound to impact the courts and, in turn, you. So expect increased legal issues in your life. Below are insights on how a state of emergency might impact the courts and your case.
The Coronavirus Pandemic Creates Legal Issues
Measures taken to stem the spread of coronavirus require social distancing. If people can’t go to work, a workplace may close. If the workplace closes, it can’t make money, pay salaries, or pay rent. That’s happening now. So, months down the road, someone will have to make up for the losses. Who might that be? Regular people like me and you. Small businesses that survive the coming weeks will also suffer deep economic impacts.
That means more foreclosure, debt collection, workplace, wrongful termination, bankruptcy, even family cases will arise in the coming months. Unlike the way it treats big banks, the government is unlikely to bail us out in any significant way. So, you may see a spike in legal problems due to the current situation.
Ways the Courts are Responding
Currently, pending court cases are disrupted and future ones put on hold. In the last week or so, we’ve seen courts extend deadlines for filing documents and delay jury trials, nonessential hearings, and other proceedings. They’ve suspended statutes of limitations and increased use of advanced communication. Appellate courts have suspended oral arguments and some courts have amended their local rules to loosen requirements for notarizing documents.
In general, hearings might proceed if a judge is able to conduct them remotely and the hearings “are not in the courthouse.” But that’s about all you can expect for now. Understandably, the courts aren’t eager to do business with anyone at the moment. Heck, in DC even the Marriage Bureau is closed and HUD and Maryland Courts have halted all foreclosure and eviction cases.
Courts are following a procedure that might stem the transmission of the virus. That does not mean, however, that nothing is happening. That’s what you need to know to stay out of danger. Read on.
Not All Court Proceedings Have Stopped
Though court operations are greatly reduced, courts have not completely shut down. In civil cases, a court might hear an emergency motion that is truly an emergency. They may issue restraining orders or protective orders by phone or video conference. We may even see Zoom, Google Hangouts, or even Skype before this is all over. Depositions, arbitrations, and mediations may take place online.
Since online communication is possible, court-announced delays don’t automatically mean you should not respond to certain documents. So, it’s a good time for you to assess your case and determine the actions you should and should not take in light of the circumstances.
Sample Filings You Shouldn’t Ignore
Because of the social distancing required by the coronavirus epidemic, the represented party in your case may be home asleep. The lawyer though will be working, so pay close attention to what is sent or filed in your case. Don’t ignore something because you don’t think the court will care. In litigation, when the other party cares, it’s important. Below are some of the things you may not be able to get away with ignoring during this time.
- Requests for Admissions – Under normal circumstances, failure to respond to a Request for Admissions might lead to a successful Motion to Deem Facts Admitted. That means, if you don’t respond to the request, everything asked of you may be deemed admitted. You don’t want that. So, don’t take a chance and hope for the judge’s discretion later on. He or she may not want to exercise any. If the mailman is delivering and your email works, answer the Request for Admissions. It’s important.
- Other Discovery Requests – Discovery requests and responses are sent directly from one party to the other. This usually happens via email or snail mail. Both of these systems are working well. If you don’t respond adequately, the same consequences that might have resulted before the pandemic might still come to pass, but it’s just delayed.
- Responses to Emergency Motions – Oftentimes, you don’t get a chance to respond to these anyway. So, the point might be moot. However, if you have the opportunity, and the situation is dire, or you need the judge to rule in your favor, respond electronically to the motion now.
- Responding to a Complaint – If a complaint has been docketed, and you received it before the restrictions, and you can access the court remotely, you are taking a huge risk by not responding. It’s okay to respond with a motion for extension of time for starters, but file something. Don’t just do nothing.
- Responding to or Filing other Critical Documents – Stay abreast of your case, and don’t let critical motions and pleadings catch you up short. For each document, determine whether you need to respond now or wait until later.
As stated earlier, expect an increased number of civil court cases in the future based on what’s happening now. When things start to get back to normal, expect more remote hearings and an increase in access to electronic filings for pro se litigants.
Because of delays and filing of new cases, expect the courts to be overwhelmed. Thus, as a pro se litigant, you can also expect judges to be eager to throw your case under the bus. So, it’s important to know your rights and be able to use civil procedure. Too, it’s a good time to join Courtroom5 and sharpen your knives for future battle.
Below are some things you can do now in your case to prepare for life after the coronavirus threat has subsided.
- Analyze your case to make sure there are no holes.
- Develop a litigation Strategy.
- Make sure your powers of attorney and will are up to date. (You can’t imagine how much angst and paperwork are created by a missing will.)
- Review your Discovery and determine what to do next.
- Determine the evidence you need and whether you require Private Investigators or other professionals.
- Find Case Law for your motions.
- If you’re anticipating trial, think about the process and consider Witnesses.
Pssst! Hey, you there, struggling to win your case. Isn’t it time you gave Courtroom5 a spin? We publish articles like this to help you level the playing field, but it’s sometimes too late to save your case. Stop trying to catch up. Get ahead of the game and start driving your case to the judgment you deserve. See how it works today!