Despite emergency declarations, cases move forward in Loudoun Co. courts, others

With declarations of judicial emergency in response to COVID-19 from chief justices of their appeals courts, most cases in Virginia, Maryland and D.C.’s courthouses have been postponed. But in each jurisdiction, the wheels of justice continue to turn.

Last Wednesday, Virginia’s Supreme Court extended its judicial emergency until at least May 17 after Gov. Ralph Northam announced his stay-at-home order would last until June 10.

Late last week, Loudoun County District Court Chief Judge Deborah Welsh informed the county bar association that despite all cases being continued, court personnel and lawyers were expected in court Monday and Tuesday, in the event people with court dates weren’t apprised of the extension.

“It is expected that there will not be many people present,” Welsh wrote. “This will hopefully allow the Court an opportunity to resolve these cases and prevent such persons from having to reappear at another date and time.”

Welsh said safety precautions are being taken: “A bailiff will be present at the back of each courtroom to maintain social distancing.”

The judicial orders do not decree that courts should be locked, although most matters are closed to the public.

Virginia’s policy allows judges to hear nonemergency matters, “upon agreement of all parties, attorneys and witnesses by two-way electronic audiovisual communication systems.”

The judicial orders in Virginia, Maryland and D.C. allow certain emergency matters to take place, although all jurisdictions are attempting to limit jail populations.

In some jurisdictions, bond hearings are being held by teleconference, if prosecutors don’t intend to ask the defendant be held until trial.

At noon Monday, it was not clear how many cases were held in Leesburg as Loudoun County District Court Clerk Tammy Dinterman did not immediately respond to request for comment.

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