Judicial emergency to extend into 2022
By: Jason Boleman December 13, 2021
The Supreme Court of Virginia’s declaration of judicial emergency will extend into 2022, according to a recent order from the court.
Ordered Dec. 10, the court extended the declaration of judicial emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic through Jan. 5, 2022. The extension is the 32nd the court has issued since initially declaring a judicial emergency on March 16, 2020. Prior to the extension, the judicial emergency was set to expire Dec. 16.
Aside from the extension, the Dec. 10 order has no changes to the outlined COVID protocols the Supreme Court of Virginia asks local courts to follow. Courts are still asked to screen individuals entering the courthouse “if, and to the extent, recommended, by the Virginia Department of Health,” while speedy trial act deadlines will continue to be tolled. Courts are also permitted to continue to accept pleadings, orders and other documents with electronic signatures, including “those where the electronic signature is accomplished by scanning.”
The court also permits chief and presiding judges to “exercise their discretion in determining how best to safely operate their respective courts” in regards to jury trials and other COVID-19 safety protocols.
In the order, the court asks chief and presiding judges to create protocols in compliance with existing law, citing the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry’s COVID-19 standard. The standard outlines guidelines for employers on COVID-related guidelines for their place of business, including with respect to vaccination, what to do if an employee tests positive and guidance on whether face coverings should be required.
Aside from physical distancing and capacity restrictions, the most visible COVID safety protocol are face mask requirements. Per the DOLI standard, employers should require face masks for employees in areas the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention deem to have “high” or “substantial” transmission of COVID-19. As of Dec. 13, every county and independent city in Virginia is experiencing high or substantial transmission, according to the CDC.