Ohio Court Operations and Access During the Coronavirus CrisisClient Alert
On March 19, 2020, Ohio Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor gave an update on the State Judicial Branch’s response to the coronavirus crisis at a press conference held by Governor Mike DeWine. As of the date of this update, individual courts within the State of Ohio have the authority to issue their own emergency procedures regarding court access, trials, hearings and filings during the coronavirus pandemic. Most municipal, county and appellate courts throughout Ohio have already issued orders changing the procedures to be followed until further notice. The Ohio Judicial Conference has an extensive list of links to these temporary local court rule changes at: http://www.ohiojudges.org/Resources/covid-19-emergency-planning.
Although Chief Justice O’Connor is allowing local courts to determine how to operate in their communities’ best interests for the time-being, she has provided significant guidance on issues the courts should be considering, including:
- The total closure of the court system in Ohio is not an option since it would prevent access to justice.
- Courts must especially remain open to address criminal, emergency and time-sensitive matters.
- Jury pools and the level of public traffic in courthouses should be reduced.
- Judges should consider lowering bonds and issuing summonses instead of ordering arrests, depending upon the severity of the crimes at issue.
- Hearings should be held by video or telephone conference when possible.
- Clerks of Courts should remain open to allow for public filings.
It is important to emphasize that Ohio courts are still in operation during this time, and in most instances, there will still be ways to address whatever legal issues you are facing through the Judicial System. If you have a pending court case, it is highly recommended that you discuss the court’s current procedures with your attorney and also discuss how these changes could impact your case practically and strategically. Some questions which might arise, include:
Is my civil trial likely to go forward as scheduled? Many local courts have postponed civil trials for 30 days or more, but you should consult with your attorney.
Should I appear in person for my hearing? Many hearings, such as pretrials and non-emergency hearings, are being conducted by the courts by telephone or videoconference. However, hearings that involve evidence will still likely require a court appearance by you and/or your attorney. You will want to ask your attorney how the court is handling your particular hearing.
Has my foreclosure or eviction been put on hold? Chief Justice O’Connor has recommended that foreclosure sales and evictions for non-payment of rent be put on hold temporarily, but this is still at the discretion of the local courts. An eviction for an issue other than non-payment of rent will likely not be put on hold by your local court. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has placed a hold on foreclosures of mortgages backed by the federal government until the end of April 2020 and some banks are also placing a temporary stay on their foreclosure filings. Contact your attorney or bank with questions.
Do the deadlines that were previously set in my case still apply? Yes. All deadlines for answers, motions, discovery cutoffs and other time-limits still apply unless you or your attorney ask the Court for an extension of the deadline, and it is granted.
Can I file a new case, vehicle title or other filing at the Clerk of Courts? Clerks of Courts remain open for business throughout the State of Ohio. You will want to call ahead to see if your filing can be received in person, by mail, or electronically.
I’ve been ordered to appear for jury duty, what should I do? Call the juror call-in number provided on your juror summons to find out if you need to appear at the Court in person.
All of these guidelines are for municipal, county and appellate courts in Ohio only. If you have a case pending in Federal Court or in a different State, you will want to carefully check that court’s particular coronavirus response. As always, the Litigation Team at Brennan, Manna & Diamond is ready to assist and advise you with your legal needs during this difficult time. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions that you might have.