What You Should Know About How COVID-19 Is Affecting Courts In Arizona

By Matt Hesketh and Sean Moore

FEDERAL DISTRICT COURTS IN ARIZONA
  • General Order 20-20, General Order 20-17, and General Order 20-15:
    • All jury trials scheduled to commence before June 1 are postponed until further notice.
    • Grand jury proceedings are suspended through June 1, and trial deadlines in criminal cases scheduled to begin before June 1are postponed until further notice.
    • All other proceedings, except those deemed necessary by the Court, are postponed until further order. Necessary proceedings include: initial appearances, arraignments, preliminary and detention hearings, changes of plea, sentencings, and necessary revocation hearings.
    • Judges may continue to hold hearings, conferences, bench trials, and other proceedings to the extent necessary, but the proceedings shall be telephonic or virtual when feasible. General Order 20-18 authorizes the use of video and telephone conferencing for various criminal case events.
    • Non-case related activities are canceled until further notice, including naturalization ceremonies, attorney admission ceremonies, mock trials, CLE events, school tours, and all other non-case related gatherings.
    • Customer service counters are closed until May 29, but employees in the Clerk’s Offices are available by phone.
    • Mail and electronic filings will still be processed.
    • In-person filings and criminal debt payments must be left in drop boxes near the courthouse entrances.
ARIZONA STATE COURTS
  • Arizona State Courts resource center.
  • Arizona State Bar resource center.
  • The Arizona Supreme Court Clerk’s Office remains open but has implemented certain protocols to ensure safety. The protocols are available here.
  • Administrative Order No. 2020-70:
    • It is anticipated that Arizona courts will begin a phased-in approach to conducting in-person hearings and jury trials in late spring or early summer 2020, with a future order setting forth the protocol for the transition.
    • In the meantime, the limitations on court operations and facilities are extended.
    • All in-person proceedings in all Arizona appellate, superior, justice, and municipal courts are to be avoided to the greatest extent constitutionally possible until further notice.
    • Empaneling of new petit juries is rescheduled through June 1.
    • Empowers the presiding judge of every superior court to make or suspend local rules to address the public health emergency and to determine how in-person proceedings shall take place to limit in-person contact, follow social distancing guidelines, and liberally grant continuances and additional accommodations to parties, witnesses, attorneys, and juries.
    • Suspends through June 1 any rule that impedes the court’s ability to use technology to limit in-person contact. For example, judges considering orders of protection may conduct ex parte hearings via telephone.
    • Between March 18 and June 1, all time is excluded from the calculation of time under court rules and statutory provisions that require the court to hold proceedings within a specific time frame. Limited exceptions include certain criminal proceedings, domestic violence protective proceedings, child protection temporary custody proceedings, civil commitment hearings, emergency protection of vulnerable person proceedings, habeas corpus proceedings, juvenile detention hearings, election cases, and other proceedings to determine whether to grant emergency relief.
    • Electronic and digital means of creating a verbatim record may be used notwithstanding a party’s request for a certified court reporter.
    • Until June 1, the time to act under Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure 50(b), 52(b), 59(b)(1), (c), (d), and 60(c) may be extended by 30 days upon a showing of good cause.
    • Even if Arizona courts are forced to close entirely, they will strive to be available by telephone and email to the greatest extent possible and will accept documents by drop boxes for documents that cannot be e-filed.
  • Administrative Order No. 2020-58:
    • Extends the deadline for all Arizona attorneys to complete their necessary continuing legal education hours for the 2019–2020 year to December 30, 2020. The deadline to submit an attorney’s affidavit of compliance is similarly extended through December 30, 2020.
MARICOPA COUNTY SUPERIOR COURTS
  • General information.
  • Administrative Order No. 2020-60:
    • Through May 1, Maricopa County justice courts will be closed for in-person proceedings, with limited exceptions. The justice courts will continue to hold telephonic hearings and process all types of cases.  Contact information for the justice courts can be found here.
    • Parties seeking eviction/forcible detainer, in cases of irreparable and immediate breach, may contact the assigned justice court to request an emergency telephonic hearing. See also the governor’s Executive Order 2020-14 delaying evictions.
    • Debtors requesting a hearing on a writ of garnishment may file an emergency request for a hearing with the assigned justice court to request a telephonic hearing date.
    • Individuals seeking an order of protection or an injunction against harassment may complete petitions through AZPOINT and may file petitions by calling the assigned justice court and providing the AZPOINT confirmation number. Contested hearings will be conducted as directed by further court order.
    • Individuals seeking injunctions against workplace harassment may filed petitions with the justice court, and any contested hearings will be conducted by further court order.
  • Administrative Order No. 2020-58:
    • Suspends protocols for processing requests to defer payment of court fees and costs, and directs special commissioners to grant applications for deferrals between March 25 and May 1, with the understanding that the deferrals will be reviewed and may be modified at a later date.
  • Administrative Order No. 2020-055:
    • With limited exceptions, no in-person proceedings will occur in Maricopa County Superior Courts through April 30, 2020. Telephonic hearings will continue, and the court will be available to process all case types and non-appearance hearings.
    • Physical access to all Maricopa County Superior Courts is restricted to the limited exceptions. Attendance is limited to parties, witnesses, victims, sheriffs’ deputies, detention officers, law enforcement officers, parents in juvenile delinquency matters, and lawyers who are participating in the hearing or event.
    • Any person who has contracted, been exposed to, or is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 must notify the assigned judicial division to appear telephonically or have the hearing rescheduled.
    • Unless an in-person appearance is required by statute or the Arizona or United States Constitution, any proceedings may be converted to a telephonic or video appearance by any judicial office of the court.
    • Parties seeking eviction/forcible detainer, in cases of irreparable and immediate breach, may contact the civil department at 602.506.1497 to request an emergency telephonic hearing and must provide notice to the defendant. See also the governor’s Executive Order 2020-14 delaying evictions.
    • Debtors requesting a hearing on a writ of garnishment may file an emergency request for a hearing, a conformed copy of which must be emailed to civilemergencies@jbazmc.maricopa.gov.
    • Parties seeking an injunction against harassment may file a petition at the Law Library Resource Center located in the East Court Building at 101 W. Jefferson, Phoenix, Arizona 85003. Ex parte hearings will be conducted telephonically, and contested hearings will be conducted as directed by the court, which may be done telephonically or by video.
    • Applications for temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions will be reviewed and orders issued. The application and any supporting materials must be emailed to the assigned judicial division with a copy to civilemergencies@jbazmc.maricopa.gov. Return and evidentiary hearings will be held telephonically or by video unless otherwise ordered.
    • There is good cause to waive any personal appearance at a settlement conference.
    • From April 1, 2020, through April 30, 2020 documents may be served by email to the email address of the party or, if represented, counsel for the party being served,  and such service is deemed completed upon electronic transmission. The serving party shall use the email address the receiving party has identified in the caption.
    • On a case-by-case basis, the presiding judge may designate additional proceedings as in-person proceedings.
  • Juror selection in all Maricopa County courts has been halted through April 17.
  • Nonessential functions are canceled, including field trips, court tours, law library workshops, volunteer events, and conferences.

MODIFIED CLERK OF COURT OPERATIONS

  • There are restrictions for entry into the superior court. View them here.
  • Filing options are listed here.
  • Marriage license services will be available by appointment only until further notice.
  • Passport services will not be provided until further notice.
  • The public record computer terminals are no longer accessible to the public.
  • The Law Library Resource Counter is limited to applicants seeking a protective order or injunction against harassment.
  • Requests for updates on case statutes should be directed to the assigned judicial divisions rather than the Clerk of Court.
  • News release of COVID-19 measures

MODIFIED CIVIL DEPARTMENT OPERATIONS (Updated April 1)

  • Until April 30, no in-person proceeding will occur, with limited exceptions. The court will hold telephonic hearings and remain available to process all case types and non-appearance proceedings.
  • No new juries will be empaneled through April 30.
  • Judicial officers are to limit in-person proceedings. Requests to convert an in-person proceeding into a telephonic or virtual proceeding should be directed to individual judges.
  • Judicial officers will continue to have access to electronically filed documents and will continue to review, consider, and rule on filings.
  • Oral arguments will presumptively be conducted telephonically.  Exceptions must be specifically arranged with the assigned judicial officer.
  • Attendance at any in-person court event is limited to parties, witnesses, and lawyers participating in the event.
  • Couriers will be able to drop off copies of filings in division boxes, but court personnel will not provide signature verifications.
  • Court-appointed arbitrators are permitted to postpone proceedings for up to 120 days from the appointment, upon a showing of good cause. They also may conduct proceedings and hear testimony telephonically.
  • Settlement conference deadlines scheduled to occur before April 17 will be extended.
  • The Law Library Resource Center is restricted to individuals seeking protective orders and orders against harassment.
  • Applications for temporary restraining orders/preliminary injunctions must be filed with the Clerk of Court.  The pleadings, application, supporting materials, and proposed form of order must be emailed to the assigned judicial division and to civilemergencies@jbazmc.maricopa.gov.  Any return hearing or evidentiary hearing will be held by video or telephone unless otherwise ordered by the court.
  • Parties seeking an eviction/forcible detainer may contact the civil department at 602.506.1497 to request a hearing date. Only eviction/forcible detainer applications alleging an immediate breach and irreparable harm will be heard before April 8.  See also the governor’s Executive Order delaying evictions.
  • Debtors may request a telephonic hearing date on a writ of garnishment by filing an “Emergency Request for Hearing” and delivering a conformed copy to the Civil Court Drop Box located at the Central Court Building at 201 W. Jefferson, Phoenix, AZ 85003.
  • Judgment creditors seeking judgment against a garnishee or an order of continuing lien in a transcript of judgment case must deliver a garnishment packet to the Civil Court Drop Box located at the Central Court Building at 201 W. Jefferson, Phoenix, AZ 85003.
  • Default judgment packets may be mailed to the assigned commissioner’s division.
  • Hearings for excess proceeds and name changes will be vacated through April 30.

 

Sherman & Howard gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Extern Law Clerk Jake Rapp in preparing this memorandum.

©2020 Sherman & Howard L.L.C. has prepared this newsletter to provide general information on recent legal developments that may be of interest. This advisory does not provide legal advice for any specific situation and does not create an attorney-client relationship between any reader and the firm.

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