By Order of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the Judicial Emergency in the Fifth Judicial District (Allegheny County) has been extended through June 1, 2020. A summary of the Order and the relevant portions for Family Law Cases is below. The Full text of the Order is here.
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA WESTERN DISTRICT
IN RE: AMENDED FIFTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT EMERGENCY OPERATIONS PLAN
No. 23 WM 2020 ORDER OF COURT
AND NOW, this 6th day of May, 2020, consistent with the Order of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania dated April 28, 2020, this Court having declared a judicial emergency in the Fifth Judicial District of Pennsylvania, this Court amends its previous Emergency Operations Orders and now orders that the actions set forth below be taken pursuant to Pa.R.J.A. No. 1952(B)(2). All provisions of this Order apply through June 1, 2020.
This Court has extended its declaration of a judicial emergency through June 1, 2020. Therefore, the judicial emergency in the Fifth Judicial District, which began on March 16, 2020, will continue through June 1, 2020.
Time Calculations and Deadlines
The suspensions of time calculations and deadlines, subject to constitutional limitations, as indicated in this Court’s previous Emergency Operations Orders, began on March 16, 2020 and will continue through June 1, 2020, absent further order of court. This suspension will have lasted 78 days.
- Time calculations and deadlines were suspended during the judicial emergency so that they did not continue to run during that time. Upon conclusion of the judicial emergency, new deadlines shall be calculated by adding the time period of the suspension (days during which time calculations were suspended due to the judicial emergency) to the original deadline. For example, if the original deadline was March 19, 2020, and the period of suspension under the judicial emergency was 78 days, the new deadline would be June 5, 2020 (78 days after March 19th). If, however, the deadline expired before the judicial emergency began, that deadline would not be extended by the judicial emergency.
- Postponements or continuances resulting from the judicial emergency shall be considered court postponements and shall constitute excludable time, subject to constitutional limitations for purposes of the application of Rule 600. See Commonwealth v. Bradford, 46 A.3d 693 (Pa. 2012) and Commonwealth v. Mills, 162 A. 3d 323 (Pa. 2017).
- Attorneys and litigants shall NOT use the judicial emergency to secure strategic advantage in litigation, including by dilatory conduct. Individual judges may determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether a failure to meet a deadline was not directly the result of or affected by the judicial emergency, (such as in routine discovery matters) and whether the deadline should have been met during the judicial emergency. The judge may then take any action deemed appropriate to address the situation.
- Jury trials in both the Criminal and Civil Divisions remain suspended consistent with the April 28, 2020 Order of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
The local judicial emergency in the Fifth Judicial District has been extended through June 1, 2020. Therefore, no court proceedings in the Fifth Judicial District relating to the dispossession of residential property, either in the Magisterial District Courts or the Court of Common Pleas, will occur before June 2, 2020. Further, any existing Order or Writ of Possession issued with respect to residential property in the Fifth Judicial District is stayed until June 2, 2020, and therefore cannot be executed or enforced until June 2, 2020.
Public Access to Court Facilities
Until further Order of Court, the Family Law Center is closed to the public.
Until June 1, 2020, the Civil Division courtrooms and offices located on the 7th and 8th floors of the City-County Building are closed to the public. The Housing Court Help Desk, located on the first floor of the City County Building, is also closed.
Until June 1, 2020, the Orphans’ Court Division, located in the Frick Building, is closed to the public.
Until June 1, 2020, the Criminal Division courtrooms and offices, located in the Allegheny County Courthouse, are closed to the public.
Until June 1, 2020, the Magisterial District Courts are closed to the public, with the exceptions set forth in the Magisterial District Courts section below.
The Pittsburgh Municipal Courts Building is open to the public for the matters and proceedings set forth in this Order.
News media shall be permitted into the Pittsburgh Municipal Court Building, but only in a manner that is consistent with public safety.
Building security and Sheriff’s Deputies assigned to the Pittsburgh Municipal Court Building are authorized to deny admission or remove a person who is visibly ill or who is exhibiting symptoms of COVID- 19, provided that they provide such person with information (telephone number or email address) to enable them to initiate, participate in, or complete necessary essential court business/functions during the judicial emergency.
Only persons with essential court business are guaranteed admission into the Pittsburgh Municipal Court Building, subject to restrictions above. Friends and family members may be required to wait outside the facility. Sheriff’s Deputies shall have the authority to limit the number of persons entering or remaining in a court facility at any given time to ensure public safety.
Methods for Conducting Proceedings, Transportation, Signatures, and Fingerprinting
- All court proceedings will be conducted by Advanced Communication Technology (ACT), primarily through Microsoft Teams, pursuant to the protocol for teleconference hearings issued by the Court. Other audio or teleconference methods may be employed, pursuant to the protocol for teleconference hearings issued by the Court, with the approval of the Administrative Judges. See attached Protocol for Teleconference Hearings.
- Any existing Orders for fingerprinting and the requirement for fingerprinting, except for admission into the Allegheny County Jail, are suspended during the judicial emergency.
- Until further Order of Court, no inmates or juveniles will be transported from state correctional facilities, county jails or prisons, Shuman Detention Center, or Hartman Shelter for court hearings. Transportation for other purposes will be at the discretion of the Allegheny County Sheriff. Where the participation of the inmate or juvenile is required at a court hearing, Advanced Communication Technology shall be employed.
- When a court reporter or other approved form of recording court proceedings is unavailable, alternative forms of recording shall be permitted.
- Alternative methods of signing, delivery, and service of court documents and orders shall be permitted. This includes, but is not limited to, facsimile signatures, electronic signatures, proxy signatures, and designated court employees authorized to sign on behalf of a judge after the judge has reviewed and approved the document for signature. Pro se litigants completing forms at Pittsburgh Municipal Court may authorize court employees to sign documents, when necessary, for the safety of the litigants and court employees. Under such circumstances, the court employee will sign his/her name to the document indicating that the litigant has reviewed the document and that all of the information contained therein was provided by the litigant. If an employee must sign for a pro se litigant, he/she will do so in a manner allowing the litigant to see the employee sign the document.
Child Support, Divorce, Alimony, and Equitable Distribution of Property
- Until further Order of Court, child support payments will not be accepted in person. Child supports payments may be made by credit card, check, and/or money order. Payment coupons and instructions are available on the Fifth Judicial District website: www.alleghenycourts.us
- Child and/or spousal support and Alimony Pendente Lite conferences and hearings scheduled between March 16, 2020 and May 11, 2020 shall be rescheduled by court order with the proceedings being scheduled effective June 8, 2020. All conferences and hearings will be conducted telephonically until further notice. A continuance Order and telephonic instructions will be sent by US Postal Mail and, when possible, by text message.
- Effective May 11, 2020, all scheduled conferences and/or hearings shall be conducted telephonically. Litigants will receive telephonic conference/hearing instructions via US Postal Mail and, when possible, by text message.
- All evidence being submitted for support proceedings may be submitted by text message, email, or fax prior to or during the course of the proceeding.
- Exceptions to Hearing Officer Support Recommendations shall be filed electronically at firstname.lastname@example.org. The complete “Exceptions Procedure” shall be maintained on the Fifth Judicial District website and is incorporated herein, by reference.
- Masters’ conciliations regarding complex support and/or equitable distribution scheduled after May 4, 2020 will be rescheduled as a conciliation by teleconference.
- Masters’ hearings scheduled after May 4, 2020 shall be converted to a conciliation.
- Masters’ conciliations and hearings scheduled between March 16, 2020 and May 4, 2020 will be rescheduled as a conciliation by teleconference.
- Masters’ Rules and Procedures are posted to the Fifth Judicial District website and are made applicable by this Order.
- The Court shall continue to review and grant divorces, administratively, when all required documents are filed with the Department of Court Records.
- Any matter may be presented to the Court by motion, without a hearing, pursuant to the judges’ procedures on the website, for entry of an Order.
- For emergency matters involving child support, please call (412) 350- 1500, Monday through Friday between 9:00 A.M. and 3:00 P.M.
- Custody motions will be addressed on a case-by-case basis. For custody motions for new cases or cases without a judicial assignment, please contact the Court by email at:
- Any matter may be presented to the Court by motion, without a hearing, for entry of an Order, pursuant to the assigned judge’s procedures on the Fifth Judicial District website.
- Please call (412) 350-1500, Monday through Friday between 9:00 A.M. and 3:00 P.M. for questions concerning other emergency custody matters.
Protection from Abuse
- Until further Order of Court, all Temporary Protection from Abuse matters will be addressed at the Pittsburgh Municipal Court Building, 660 First Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15219. Temporary Protection from Abuse Hearings shall be conducted generally through videoconference. If a hearing cannot be conducted through videoconference, the hearing shall be held by audio or teleconference.
- Temporary Protection from Abuse Petitions will be addressed between the hours of 8:00 A.M. and 2:00 P.M, Monday through Friday.
- Emergency Protection from Abuse Petitions will be addressed from 2:00 P.M. until 8:00 A.M., Monday through Friday, and 24 hours Saturday and Sunday.
- Final Protection from Abuse Hearings are suspended until further Order of Court.
- Temporary Orders for Protection from Abuse shall remain in effect until 15 days after the end of the judicial emergency unless otherwise indicated in the Temporary Order.
- Until further Order of Court, Indirect Criminal Contempt (ICC) Complaints will not be accepted by private petition.
- ICC Police Complaints will be accepted and bail hearings will be held before a Magisterial District Judge using Advanced Communication Technology. If a defendant is detained, a bail hearing shall be held before the judge assigned to hear the Temporary PFA Petitions.
- Hearings on ICC Complaints are suspended until further Order of Court.
- Effective Thursday, March 26, 2020, Monday through Friday between 9:00 A.M. and 3:00 P.M., please call (412) 350-1500 for questions concerning Protection from Abuse.
MAGISTERIAL DISTRICT COURTS COVID-19 PLAN UPDATED 5/6/2020
All Magisterial District Courts are closed. Magisterial District Judges and staff will work remotely to process essential operation functions. These essential operations include arraignments, criminal case filings and subsequent processing, issuance of search warrants and Emergency Protection from Abuse petitions.
The Police shall follow the Magisterial District Court Remote procedure. To summarize, the police will email all criminal complaints, arrest warrant requests and search warrant requests to MDJSWarrants@alleghenycourts.us. These cases will be assigned to the issuing authority or a Magisterial District Judge on duty for processing.
Emergency Protection from Abuse petitions are handled at the Pittsburgh Municipal Court facility, 660 First Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15219, Monday through Friday from 2:00 p.m. through 8:00 a.m., and Friday from 2:00 p.m. through Monday at 8:00 a.m.
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.