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Washington Courts Ordered to Postpone Activity Involving Public Contact

Posted by Doug Barrett | Mar 23, 2020 | 0 Comments

On March 20, 2020, the Supreme Court of the State of Washington issued Amended Order No. 25700-B-607 to organize the statewide response of Washington's courts to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.  This follows Governor Inslee's declaration of a state of emergency on February 29, and President Trump's declaration of a national emergency on March 13.  During this state of emergency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Washington State Department of Health have recommended increasingly stringent social distancing measures of at least six feet between people, and encouraged vulnerable individuals to avoid public spaces.  Governor Inslee has barred gatherings of more than fifty people.  The CDC has recommended restricting gatherings to no more than 10 people.

The need for the public to maintain social distancing presents a practical problem for the courts in our state.  Many court facilities in Washington are ill-equipped to effectively comply with social distancing.  To protect public health, the March 20 Washington State Supreme Court's order directs Washington courts to reduce activity involving public contact as follows:

All civil jury trials will be suspended until after April 24, 2020. Trials already in session where a jury has been sworn and social distancing and other public health measures are strictly observed may proceed. At the discretion of the trial court or agreement of the parties, those trials may be rescheduled to a later date.

All non-emergency civil matters shall be postponed until after April 24, 2020, except

the parts that can be conducted properly by telephone, video or other means that does not require in–person attendance.

All emergency matters, including civil protection and restraining order matters, that must be heard before April 24, 2020, must be heard by telephone, video, or other means that does not require in-person attendance, unless impossible. Where court matters must be heard in person, social distancing and other public health measures must be strictly observed. Telephonic, video or other hearings required to be public must be recorded, with the recording preserved for the record.

The Supreme Court may extend the time frames in this order as required by continuing public health emergency, and if necessary, will do so by further order.

Here is where to find updates on emergency measures being taken by individual courts across the state:  http://www.courts.wa.gov/index.cfm?fa=home.courtClosures

About the Author

Doug Barrett

Paralegal Intern – Doug Barrett Doug brings over two decades of senior branch office administration experience from the financial services field, including regulatory compliance management in a professionally licensed environment.  His writing and editing skills bring the firm's message into foc...

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