Today, April 28, 2020, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania entered an Order extending its March 16, 2020 Order with regard to the statewide judicial emergency through June 1, 2020.
It goes on to state that beginning May 4, 2020 unless provided by a local emergency Order Pennsylvania courts shall be open to conduct court business, but all in-person access and proceedings shall be strictly limited according to the terms of the Order or a more restrictive order issued by a local court. The courts’ priorities shall remain centered on their critical functions.
It also sets forth that in jurisdictions with prevailing local emergencies, self-effectuation extensions may be filed, however any declaration extending a local emergency beyond June 1, 2020 should provide supporting reasoning.
President Judges may restrict access to court facilities so that appropriate social distancing can be maintained. To the degree practicable in light of the necessity for some in-person appearances and proceedings…courts shall permit parties’ physical presence to be excused…all courts…are encouraged to consider deciding matters on the papers and/or to conduct court proceedings though the use of advanced communication technologies.
President Judges are given substantial discretion in connection with the enforcement of time deadlines to ensure they do not create an unreasonable risk to the health or safety of court personnel, attorneys, court users, or the general public.
Priorities of critical court functions are detailed, as are issues involving: Jury Trials, Payments, Constitutional Issues, Children’s Fast Track Appeals.
Guidance to Legal Professionals is to counsel their clients that the public health emergency can in no way be used to secure strategic advantage in litigation, including by means of dilatory conduct. In such instances it may be useful to explain the duties of a lawyer as advocate continue during the Covid-19 crisis, including the duty to expedite litigation, the duty of candor toward the tribunal, and the duty of fairness to opposing party and counsel.
The Court continues to authorize and encourage use by legal professionals of advanced communication technology to the greatest extent possible. This also permits lawyers access to their physical offices on a limited basis to render legal services that cannot be practically completed through advanced communication technology for a limited scope of timely matters involving health care, end-of-life decision making, government benefits necessary to sustain life and access healthcare and income.
Note that in Allegheny County, our local Family Court has been constantly updating local procedures since the beginning of the pandemic and as recently as Friday, May 8, 2020, implemented advanced communication measures for Judges, Hearing Officers and Masters.
Bottom line is that these are unprecedented times, and cooperation is needed from everyone. It is also realized that some matters are more urgent than others and will require immediate attention. We are fortunate locally, to have a lot of hard work being performed behind the scenes in order to better serve the residents of Allegheny County.
As always, we provide updated links to additional Free Legal Resources which can answer many of your PA Family Law questions and we continue to provide answers to Frequently Asked Questions. We are also available by phone if you have specific questions or require legal assistance from an experienced Pittsburgh Family Law attorney. Call today 412.303.9566. Video meetings and online payment.