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Louisiana Supreme Court Issues Two New Orders

The  Louisiana  Supreme  Court,  in  accordance  with  declarations  by  Governor  John  Bel  Edwards and President Donald Trump, released two Orders in its continuing effort to reduce the number of new cases of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) by citizens, including judges and court staff. Chief  Justice  Bernette  Joshua  Johnson  said,  “It  is  the  Court’s  responsibility  to  remain  steadfaststaving  off  newly  contracted  cases  of  the  Coronavirus.    In  doing  so,  we  yield  to  reasonable alternative  methods  to  adhere  to  the  constitutional  rights  of  all  citizens;  both  litigants  and  court  staff to provide due process in an environment of safety to the public health of all.” The first Order repeals and replaces the Supreme Court’s March 16, 2020, March 20, 2020 and March 23, 2020 Orders and advises on court proceedings and reads as follows:  Acting under the authority of Article V, Section 1 of Constitution of 1974, and the inherent power of this Court, and considering the continuing spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Louisiana, Governor John Bel Edwards’ declaration of public health emergencies in Proclamation Numbers  25  JBE  2020,  27  JBE  2020,  30  JBE  2020,  33  JBE  2020,  and  41  JBE  2020,  President  Donald Trump’s declaration of a national emergency on March 13, 2020, the Orders of this Court dated  March  16,  March  20,  and  March  23,  2020,  and  in  consideration  of  ongoing  public  health  recommendations to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus and slowing the spread of the disease while balancing the need to protect the constitutional rights and public safety of the citizens of the state by maintaining access to Louisiana courts, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:1. Prior  Orders:  This  Order  shall  repeal  and  replace  the  Orders  of  this  Court  dated  March 16, March 20, and March 23, 2020;2. Jury Trials:  All jury trials, both civil and criminal, scheduled to commence in any Louisiana state court between the date of this Order and May 1, 2020, are hereby continued to a date to be reset by local order no earlier than May 4, 2020.

3. In-person  emergency  matters  only:    Until  at  least  May  4,  2020,  courts  may  only  conduct  in-person  proceedings  to  address  emergency  matters  that  cannot  be  resolved  virtually.  Courts must continue to take measures to limit access to courtrooms and other spaces, with absolute minimum physical contact, to practice social distancing and limit in-person court activity to only the emergency matters set forth in sections 4 and 5 below.  As this situation is constantly changing, courts are further instructed to follow all guidelines issued by the Center for Disease Control, the President and the Governor, and to further limit access to courtroom and other spaces to the maximum number of people set forth in any future guideline or official proclamation that may be issued.  All emergency matters should be conducted with the use of video and telephone conferencing whenever possible.  Any court lacking the technological capabilities to implement this mandate shall notify the Judicial  Administrator  of  the  Louisiana  Supreme  Court  so  that  accommodations  can  be  made.4.   Criminal Matters: In criminal matters, the following matters are deemed emergency matters  for  purposes  of  section  3  above:  criminal  initial  appearances  for  adults  and  juveniles,  arraignments  for  incarcerated  individuals,  bond  hearings,  criminal  protective  orders and other emergency matters necessary to protect the health, safety and liberty of individuals as determined by each court.5. Civil  Matters:    In  civil  matters,  the  following  matters  are  deemed  emergency  matters  for  purposes  of  section  3  above:  civil  protective  orders,  child  in  need  of  care  proceedings,  emergency  child  custody  matters,  proceedings  for  children  removed  from  their home by emergency court order, proceedings related to emergency interdictions and mental health orders, temporary restraining orders and injunctions, and matters of public health  related  to  this  crisis  and  other  emergency  matters  necessary  to  protect  the  health,  safety and liberty of individuals as determined by each court.6. Remote Proceedings: This Order expressly does not prohibit any court proceedings by  telephone,  video,  teleconferencing,  or  any  other  means  that  do  not  involve  in-person contact  with  consent  of  all  parties  and  the  judge.    This  Order  does  not  affect  courts’  consideration of matters that can be resolved without in-person proceedings.  This authority does not extend to any matters suspended by executive action by the Governor, including but not limited to evictions.7. Speedy Trial Computations:  Given the public health concerns and the necessity of taking action to slow the spread of the disease, the continuances occasioned by this Order serve the ends of justice and outweigh the best interest of the public and the defendant in a speedy  trial.    Therefore,  the  time  periods  of  such  continuance  shall  be  excluded  from  speedy trial computations pursuant to law, including but not limited to those set forth in the  Louisiana  Code  of  Criminal  Procedure  and  the  Louisiana  Children’s  Code,  and  presumptively constitute just cause.8. Clerk’s  Offices:  Courts  should  work  with  parish  clerks  to  encourage  in-person filings of court pleadings to be replaced with filing by other means, such as U.S. mail, e-filing,  email  or  facsimile.    In  all  criminal,  juvenile  and  civil  matters  handled  on  an  emergency or expedited basis, a record shall be kept under the direction of the acting judge for each action.

The second  Order    amends  a  March  20,  2020  Louisiana  Supreme  Court  Order regarding filing deadlines with the state’s high court, and states, “All filings which were or are due to this Court between Thursday, March 12, 2020 through Friday, May 1, 2020 shall be considered timely if filed no  later  than  Monday,  May  4,  2020.    Parties  who  are  unable  to  meet  this  deadline  due  to  the  COVID-19  emergency  may  submit  motions  for  extensions  of  time,  supported  by  appropriate  documentation and argument.”