In jurisdictions across the country — especially COVID-19 “hot spots” — courts have entered emergency orders suspending trials and hearings, tolling the statute of limitations, and shuttering their doors to conducting anything but the most essential business. Non-essential hearings — including hearings related to non-emergency civil matters — are being conducted through Zoom and Skype to continue court proceedings without violating shelter-in-place orders and social distancing guidelines. In jurisdictions where shelter-in-place orders consider certain “legal services” as essential businesses which must remain open, those partaking must still abide by social-distancing guidelines (including six-foot spacing, and not gathering in groups of more than a minimal number such as 5 or 10), which can make something as routine as taking in-person depositions impossible. At the same time, businesses are reeling from the economic impact of COVID-19, and may find it beneficial to slow the pace of pending litigation. Responding to interrogatories, culling through thousands of emails to find responsive documents, and taking the time to prepare for depositions may not be front-of-mind for businesses simply trying to focus on retaining employees and staying afloat.
If you want to take a break from your pending cases to focus on your employees and your business, what can you do? First, the answer will depend on whether there is a shelter-in-place order where you are located, and the extent of the order. Restrictions requiring you to stay at home unless you are an “essential” employee may be all the reason you need to postpone a deposition at opposing counsel’s office, for instance.
In addition, the answer will depend on the jurisdiction in which your case is pending. We have reviewed the COVID-19 emergency rules in several jurisdictions (both state and federal), below. Depending on where your lawsuit is pending (or where you plan to file one), and what you’re hoping to accomplish with regard to the procedure of your case, courts’ COVID-19 emergency orders may help you to put your business goals first during the pandemic.
Jurisdictions reviewed in this post include the following:
- California state court
- Chicago, Illinois (Cook County, Law Division)
- New York state courts
- Texas state courts
- Florida state courts
- Federal District Courts
- United States District Court for the Southern District of California
- United States District Court for the Northern District of California
- United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
- United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
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