Amid the cornonavirus pandemic, the West Virginia Supreme Court on Monday directed all courts to suspend all proceedings, except those with emergency circumstances until April 10.
In an order filed Monday, the Mountain State’s highest court ordered that all civil and criminal trials should be postponed, unless there is a trial in which a criminal defendant’s right to a speedy trial may preclude the postponement, according to a news release from the Supreme Court.
Chief Justice Tim Armstead said the justices were trying to address the need to proceed with work in the court system while protecting public safety.
He said any proceedings that can be delayed or can be held via telephone or video should be addressed in that manner to keep as many people outside of group settings as possible.
He announced the new order to judicial officers via Skype on on Monday.
“With the governor recommending that certain steps be taken, we want to make sure we are complying with those steps as well as those measures we believe are necessary to address specific and unique issues,” Armstead said.
Emergency hearings arising from abuse and neglect petitions, domestic violence protective order petitions, mental hygiene petitions, and criminal arraignments and preliminary hearings with statutory time requirements can still be held, at the discretion of the presiding judge. Those emergency hearings should be held using technology to avoid person-to-person contact, if possible, according to the news release.
Circuit clerk’s offices and judicial offices throughout West Virginia where public access has been restricted should remain available by phone and email and have drop boxes for court filings. There is a drop box for filings at the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia Clerk’s Office and the office will remain open.
All cases scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court on March 17, 18, 24, and 25 will be rescheduled.
The Supreme Court order issued Monday supplements a protocol the court issued Friday.
Supreme Court justices have great confidence the ability of county circuit court and family court judges and magistrates to handle the changes professionally, Armstead said.
“This is an ever changing situation,” Armstead said. ”It is likely we will issue additional or revised protocols.”