Several General and Practice-Specific Considerations Apply
On May 6, 2020, the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County extended its judicial emergency through June 1, 2020, consistent with the authority provided in the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania’s Order of April 28, 2020.
The Allegheny County Order contains several important general and practice-specific orders. Some particularly relevant provisions are below (in all cases, emphasis added).
Time Calculations and Deadlines:
• The suspensions of time calculations and deadlines, subject to constitutional limitations, as indicated in this Court’s previous Emergency Operations Orders, began on March 16, 2020 and will continue through June 1, 2020, absent further order of court. This suspension will have lasted 78 days.
• Time calculations and deadlines were suspended during the judicial emergency so that they did not continue to run during that time. Upon conclusion of the judicial emergency, new deadlines shall be calculated by adding the time period of the suspension (days during which time calculations were suspended due to the judicial emergency) to the original deadline. For example, if the original deadline was March 19, 2020, and the period of suspension under the judicial emergency was 78 days, the new deadline would be June 5, 2020 (78 days after March 19th). If, however, the deadline expired before the judicial emergency began, that deadline would not be extended by the judicial emergency.
• Attorneys and litigants shall NOT use the judicial emergency to secure strategic advantage in litigation, including by dilatory conduct. Individual judges may determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether a failure to meet a deadline was not directly the result of or affected by the judicial emergency, (such as in routine discovery matters) and whether the deadline should have been met during the judicial emergency. The judge may then take any action deemed appropriate to address the situation.
• The local judicial emergency in the Fifth Judicial District has been extended through June 1, 2020. Therefore, no court proceedings in the Fifth Judicial District relating to the dispossession of residential property, either in the Magisterial District Courts or the Court of Common Pleas, will occur before June 2, 2020. Further, any existing Order or Writ of Possession issued with respect to residential property in the Fifth Judicial District is stayed until June 2, 2020, and therefore cannot be executed or enforced until June 2, 2020.
NOTE: By Executive Order dated May 7, 2020, Governor Wolf and Attorney General Shapiro announced a continuing moratorium on evictions and foreclosures in Pennsylvania through July 10, 2020.
• Consistent with this Order, the following matters shall be conducted remotely through the use of Advanced Communication Technology:
- Calendar Control Motions,
- Discovery Motions,
- Housing Court Motions,
- General Motions (contested and uncontested),
- Oral arguments on Preliminary Objections,
- Oral arguments on Motions for Summary Judgment, or Judgment on the Pleadings,
- Conciliations relating to cases on the May 2020 Trial List, and
- All other matters scheduled by any individual judge relating to a case specifically assigned to that judge.
• Notwithstanding the suspension of time calculations and deadlines set forth in Section I above, individual judges are hereby invested with substantial discretion with the enforcement of time deadlines which he/she has established in a particular case when handling one of the matters outlined above in items (1) through (8) of the Civil Division section of this Order.
• Until further Order of Court, child support payments will not be accepted in person. Child supports payments may be made by credit card, check, and/or money order. Payment coupons and instructions are available on the Fifth Judicial District website.
• Effective May 11, 2020, all scheduled conferences and/or hearings shall be conducted telephonically. Litigants will receive telephonic conference/hearing instructions via US Postal Mail and, when possible, by text message.
• All evidence being submitted for support proceedings may be submitted by text message, email, or fax prior to or during the course of the proceeding.
• Custody motions will be addressed on a case-by-case basis. For custody motions for new cases or cases without a judicial assignment, 13 please contact the Court by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Until further Order of Court, all Temporary Protection from Abuse matters will be addressed at the Pittsburgh Municipal Court Building, 660 First Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15219. Temporary Protection from Abuse Hearings shall be conducted generally through video conference. If a hearing cannot be conducted through video conference, the hearing shall be held by audio or teleconference.
Orphan’s Court Division:
• All Orphans’ Court matters shall be conducted by Advanced Communication Technology, primarily through Microsoft Teams, pursuant to the protocol for teleconference hearings issued by the Court. Other audio or teleconference methods may be employed, pursuant to the protocol for teleconference hearings issued by the Court, with the approval of the Administrative Judge. See attached Protocol for Teleconference Hearings.
• At the discretion of the judge assigned to the matter, a conference may be held via teleconference or Microsoft Teams.
• The following types of Petitions/Motions may be filed at the Department of Court Records Wills/Orphans’ Court Division for transmittal to the appropriate judge:
- Settlement Petitions involving minors, incapacitated persons, or Decedent’s Estates;
- Petitions requesting the issuance of a Citation or Rule to Show Cause;
- Petitions requesting the scheduling of a hearing, including but not limited to, termination of parental rights, adoptions, and guardianships;
- Petitions or motions that are consented to in writing by all counsel of record and/or by all unrepresented parties in interest;
- Petitions or motions that are contested will be specially scheduled by the Motions Judge via audio or video (include contact information, including email addresses, for all counsel or unrepresented parties);
- Petition to Settle a Small Estate; and
- Petitions for Allowance involving minors or incapacitated persons.
Since the beginning of this crisis, the attorneys of The Lynch Law Group have monitored this ever-changing paradigm and advised our clients at each step. Please contact us with your questions or concerns.