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Ohio Court Operations and Access During the Coronavirus Crisis

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.

Families First Coronavirus Act (“FFCRA”) Under Attack

In response to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the Families First Coronavirus Act (“FFCRA” or “the Act”) went into effect on April 1, 2020 followed closely behind by the Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) Final Rule on the Act which, collectively, describe the obligations of employers as well as the rights of employees under the FFCRA’s paid sick time and expanded family medical leave provisions.

Lockdowns, Landlords, & Litigation: Abercrombie & Fitch Flips The Script on Simon Property Group Inc.

Novel litigation between commercial property owners and tenants arises from COVID-19 lockdowns. Typically, owners sue for nonpayment of rent. But in Franklin County, Ohio, a large retail tenant turned the tables and sued the owner to recoup payments.

UPDATE: Ohio Businesses Remain Required to Post Exceptions to State-Wide Mask Mandate at All Entrances

On August 1, 2020, Lance D. Himes, Interim Director of the Ohio Department of Health, issued an amended order continuing the requirement that Ohio businesses post at all entrances any permitted exceptions they provide to customers, patrons, visitors, contractors, vendors and similar individuals to use facial coverings.

2020 Marcum National Construction Survey Marks a New, Post-Pandemic Construction Environment

The results of the 2020 Marcum National Construction Survey are in, and the construction industry’s outlook for the remainder of 2020 and beginning of 2021 remains cautiously optimistic despite the COVID-19 global pandemic. Ability to find skilled labor, healthcare expenses, and material costs remain the top concerns for the industry, while “lack of future work” joins the list.

Wrongful Death Lawsuits in the Wake of COVID-19

Several major “essential business” employers, including Walmart and Tyson, have been served with wrongful death lawsuits in relation to COVID-19. As many Ohio employees begin to return to work, employers should be prudent in following workplace safety practices.