Old courthouse

The General District Court -- pictured here with the old elm tree still in place -- will be closed to most usual business. 

Most court proceedings in Virginia’s circuit and district courts will be delayed for a period of 21 days following a Monday order from the Supreme Court of Virginia declaring a “judicial emergency” in the state. 

In response to growing concerns about COVID-19, the Supreme Court of Virginia ordered that all “non-essential, non-emergency court proceedings in all circuit and district courts” be suspended and all deadlines extended for a period of 21 days. The order is in effect until  Monday, April 6. 

All “civil, traffic and criminal matters, including jury trials, subject to a defendant’s right to a speedy trial, with the exception of emergency matters,” will be continued, according to the order. Emergency matters include, “quarantine or isolation matters, arraignments, bail reviews, protective order cases, emergency child custody or protection cases and civil commitment hearings,” according to the order.  

The order also states that judges can use their discretion in “ongoing jury trials, and in cases where the defendant is incarcerated.” 

All ceremonies, including juvenile licensing ceremonies will be postponed. 

In court proceedings that can’t be postponed, courtroom attendance will be limited to “attorneys, parties and necessary witnesses and members of the press,” according to the order.   

For jury trials that can’t be continued, jurors who are ill, caring for someone who is ill, or are in a high-risk category will be excused or have their jury service postponed. 

Individual courts are also allowed to make their own guidelines, according to the order. 

A general administrative order for circuit, general district and juvenile and domestic relations courts in Fauquier, Loudoun and Rappahannock counties further states that attorneys should determine if anyone required to appear in the courthouse and who has symptoms of COVID-19 or has traveled internationally after Jan. 1, 2020, should seek a continuance. The order also asks that attorneys “strongly discourage” the attendance of anyone who is not required at a court proceeding. 

A “liberal continuance policy” is in effect for civil cases in the three counties and attorneys are being asked to take additional steps to try to reduce the number of people who are required to appear in court. 

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