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Circuit Court COVID-19 Operating Schedule
The Chesapeake Circuit Court has continued to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic conditions as well as guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), the Virginia Department of Health (“VDH”) and the Chesapeake Health Department (“CHD”). Throughout the pandemic, the Court has striven to balance its constitutional and statutory responsibility to continue operations while at the same time protecting employees, judges, litigants, attorneys, jurors, contractors, vendors, stakeholders, and members of the public who enter the Courthouse, including those individuals ordered or compelled to appear.
The statewide Judicial Emergency, initially declared by the Supreme Court of Virginia on March 16, 2020, remains in place pursuant to the Fortieth Order Extending Declaration of Judicial Emergency in Response to COVID-19 Emergency, entered by the Supreme Court on May 27, 2022, which provides, inter alia:
Chief judges and presiding judges of all courts should continue to exercise their discretion in determining how best to safely operate their respective courts, including how to safely conduct jury trials, in compliance with any applicable laws or regulations. Safe operation may include following the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Virginia Department of Health, with respect to physical distancing and capacity restrictions, requiring a mask covering the mouth and nose, and screening individuals entering the courthouse.
The CDC recently established a new method of categorizing COVID-19 risk levels on a county-by-county basis as determined by locality-specific factors. The CDC’s system assigns a Low, Medium, or High “COVID-19 Community Level” to each locality and recommends universal indoor masking only in localities with a High Community Level. The Chesapeake Circuit Court and the entire geographic boundary of the 1st Judicial Circuit of Virginia are located in areas that fall into the CDC’s newly defined Medium Community Level category. (See https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/science/community-levels.html (last visited May, 31 2022)).
While contact with the Circuit Court Judges’ Chambers is still preferred to be by telecommunication or electronic communication, all in-person requests should be made at the Judges’ Chambers main entrance on the 4th floor (between Courtrooms #2 & #3). Persons who are not jurors should not enter the Jury Assembly Room while a jury trial is in session.
Upon review of the security awareness and prevention measures that should be taken, a second level of security to access Judges’ Chambers has been added. ALL visitors, to include other Courthouse employees with security swipe card access, MUST obtain permission to enter Chambers at the main entrance to Judges’ Chambers, with the following exceptions: (1) Judges’ Chambers employees; (2) sworn Sheriff’s Department Personnel; and (3) in-court Deputy Clerks on duty while Court is in session, for the purpose of obtaining a Judge’s endorsement on an order.
1) It is imperative that counsel work as officers of the Court to ensure that any case set for hearing will go forward. When you set a case for trial you affirmatively state that the case will proceed, and that you:
(i) Personally contacted all witnesses and confirmed their availability; and
(ii) Have any necessary documents, such as plea agreements, etc., already signed by the defendant, not just anticipating that things will be done and completed by the hearing date.
Please ensure that cases are able and ready to proceed so that the Court may hear as many matters as possible and not increase the existing backlog.
4) Bail review means a first hearing in the Court where the case is returnable, following the hearing by a magistrate, and bail appeals from the District Courts. The Court now requires that all Notice and Motions for Bail include language that the assigned/retained attorney or an attorney of his or her firm has personally met with the client and will be ready to proceed with a bail hearing on the date selected and that a bail hearing was not previously considered, withdrawn, or deferred by the defendant in a District Court or in this Court (Notice and Motion for Bond Form for use is attached).
5) The Clerk will not place a case on the Court’s docket on motion or notice of a party without Court approval. This does not eliminate any notice requirements that must be filed with the Court and the opposing party. If all counsel are in agreement that a matter cannot go forward, they should submit a continuance order ahead of time.
6) Most criminal trials will be docketed for 9:00 a.m. and hearing request forms (“HRF”) are no longer necessary IF the defendant is housed in the Chesapeake City Jail or on bond (Effective April 11, 2022 inmates housed in the Chesapeake City Jail will be transported to court for all hearing types). If an inmate is housed elsewhere, a hearing request form must be submitted by defense counsel at least three days in advance of the hearing date to the email@example.com e-mail address to secure the defendant’s appearance via video. Defense counsel is NOT required to obtain the Commonwealth’s signature on the HRF; however, they must copy the assigned CWA on the e-mail so that chambers staff can notify all counsel of the hearing time assigned by the out of city housing agency. Until further notice, previously assigned sentencing days for the judges will not be reactivated, therefore, counsel must contact the Docket Administrator at 757-382-3053 or firstname.lastname@example.org to obtain available dates before submitting a setting order for cases assigned to a specific judge.
7) Remote witness requests must be submitted to the in-court clerk/deputy at the beginning of the daily docket to allow chambers staff time to provide the appropriate connection link via e-mail (see attached request form).
8) Both counsel are required to appear in Court for a pretrial conference 30 days before the designated date of a jury trial to address any and all issues that may prohibit the jury from going forward on the designated date. The Court has second and third place cases set on most days, and if the first-place case cannot proceed for good cause as determined by the Court, counsel for the second or third place cases must be allowed sufficient time to prepare to try their case(s). To promote the convenient and efficient use of this courthouse, and the orderly management of the court docket, and in an effort to attain a more efficient administration of justice by avoiding undue hardships to citizens serving as jurors and to subpoenaed witnesses for both the Commonwealth and defendant, all demands for a jury shall be made in writing, and except upon a show of exceptional circumstances as granted by the Court, be delivered to the Clerk of Court and the Judges' Chambers no later than 30 days before the scheduled trial date.
9) Civil docket call will resume June 7, 2022; however:
(i) Parties may set a civil trial/jury and avoid docket call IF they submit mutually agreeable dates in writing, no later than the Thursday preceding docket call, to the Docket Administrator at email@example.com. The Docket Administrator will reply to all parties confirming the selected date that is best for the Court. You must appear if you do NOT receive confirmation of a trial date from our office.
(ii) To provide a timely and efficient alternative to litigants and to assist in alleviating the case backlog resulting form the COVID-19 pandemic, the Court has established a Judge Pro Tempore program for domestic relations cases. Litigants and their counsel may agree to have their matter heard by a Judge Pro Tempore, in accordance with Code §§ 17.1-109 – -111. More information regarding the program and the procedures are provided on the Court’s Website and in the Contested Divorce Procedures Manual.
10) The Court will have a liberal continuance policy and all parties agreeing to a continuance of any civil case set to be tried may obtain a new trial date by contacting the Court’s Docket Administrator at firstname.lastname@example.org or 757-382-3053.
Effective June 1, 2022, The Third Order Regarding Chesapeake Circuit Court Operations and Scheduling During COVID-19 Emergency, entered on March 30, 2022, which took effect on April 11, 2022, is hereby modified and superseded with regard to Civil Motions as follows:
In accordance with Local Rule 7, civil motions will continue to be heard on Wednesdays. All civil motions will be scheduled on the Court’s 9:00AM docket and will be heard in person, unless otherwise approved by a judge.
All available hearing dates are listed in the Drop-Down box on the scheduling page. Hearings may be scheduled for up to one hour total.
Counsel may, by agreement, request a remote Webex hearing in writing to the assigned judge, or the duty judge if no assignment has been made, setting forth the justification and reasons why a remote hearing is necessary and the matter cannot be heard in person. Any written requests for remote hearings should be faxed to 757-382-3080.
If a hearing by remote electronic means has been approved by a judge, any written briefs, agreed stipulations, depositions, or proposed exhibits must be exchanged, filed, and a copy e-mailed to email@example.com, at least 14 days prior to the hearing. If the proposed exhibit(s) to be offered at the remote hearing total more than 20 pages, a hard copy of all proposed exhibits must be delivered to Judges’ Chambers at least 7 days prior to the hearing. It is the responsibility of counsel/litigants to ensure that all parties/witnesses are prepared to go forward and have the ability to connect or appear in the manner requested.
If the hearing is no longer necessary, by agreement, counsel must inform the Court by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, before 12:00 Noon the day before the hearing.
Counsel must comply with the requirements set forth in Rule 4:15 of the Rules of the Supreme Court.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Entered by Chief Judge John W. Brown, March 30, 2022 (Website content revised May 31, 2022)