Local court operations will continue to be impacted after the Supreme Court of Virginia extended its judicial emergency for the third time in response to COVID-19.

On March 16, the Virginia Supreme Court issued an initial judicial emergency for a period of 21 days through April 6 for all district and circuit courts. The first order said it was “recognizing the need to protect the health and safety of court employees, litigants, attorneys, judges and the general public.”

After “careful consideration and review,” the Supreme Court of Virginia on March 27 extended the order for another 21 day period through April 26.

Just four days before the order was set to expire, the Virginia Supreme Court has extended the declaration of judicial emergency for a third 21 day period. This new extension continues to impact all district and circuit courts in the Commonwealth through May 17.

The order states that, “in district and circuit courts, the court may, in its discretion, hear any non-emergency matters, upon agreement of all parties, attorneys and witnesses, by two-way electronic audio-visual communication system.”

It further reads that requests to participate by telephone “should be liberally granted.”

Courts will be permitted to continue all in-person ceremonies including juvenile license ceremonies, unless at the discretion of the court such ceremonies may also be conducted using audio-visual communications systems or by phone. Any ceremony conducted must adhere to a limit of no more than 10 or more people and follow all social distancing guidelines.

The new judicial emergency declaration also advises courts to “consider the potential health risks of the COVID-19 public health emergency” before sentencing a defendant to incarceration, and consider “any appropriate alternatives to incarceration.”

Waynesboro courts will suspend normal operations to the public for all non-essential and non-emergency cases until the judicial emergency ends on May 17.

Only attorneys, parties, court personnel and witnesses under subpoena will be granted access to the courthouse. Those not under lawful subpoena, including family members or friends, will not be permitted to enter.

In circuit, juvenile and domestic relations, and general district courts, non-emergency business can be conducted by appointment only. This includes services like title or record searches, recordation of land records, and marriage licenses.

Waynesboro Circuit Court can be reached at (540) 942-6616 or briggsna@ci.waynesboro.va.us; General District at (540) 942-6636 or jbalderson@vacourts.gov; and Juvenile and Domestic Relations at (540) 942-6633 or cbailey@vacourts.gov.

Reporter

Logan Bogert is a reporter for The News Virginian in Waynesboro, Virginia. She can be reached at lbogert@newsvirginian.com or (540) 932-3562. Follow Logan on Twitter at @Logan_Bogert.

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