By Penelope S. Gaffney, Esq. and James Vavrek, Esq.
COVID-19 is relatively new to Idaho news, our first confirmed case was less than a week ago. Already schools are shuttered, the cities and counties are closing their doors to all non-emergency business and on the same day as the first confirmed case the Idaho Supreme Court issued its order suspending all in court appearances for non-emergency matters from March 16, 2020 through April 10, 2020. This order effects all courts in the state for large and small counties.
What does this mean for you? For everyone it means that things will slow down, but they will not stop. What is an emergency matter? In this context emergency matters include:
· child protection hearings,
· domestic violence hearings, and
· evidentiary hearings in criminal cases.
All trials, hearings and motions have been postponed or rescheduled.
What it means for family law:
In the family law court rooms, many of the hearings are determined based on affidavits and declarations, written statements prepared in advance of the hearing. As they do not require in person testimony such hearings will be able to continue with attorneys appearing telephonically for legal argument. What will likely be delayed are trials, where testimony is heard, and documents are presented to the Court. Mediation will all most certainly continue as these are sessions of three (3) people at the most. However, this is unchartered territory for judges, clerks, attorneys and parties representing themselves. Judges will likely be relying on attorneys to notify them when matters need to be expediated, heard by the Court sooner rather than later.
Telephonic appearances and rulings on written filings mean that you will have greater need for strong legal representation. The idea of self-representation can be appealing financially and emotionally, as some believe they will be able to tell the Court their side of the story. However, with the move to more telephonic appearances and written declarations, the need for effective, concise drafting is essential to success.
What it means for criminal proceedings:
The Idaho Supreme Court Order has placed into uncertainty much of the criminal law calendar as well. While initial appearances and arraignments will continue, many of the traditional functions of the criminal court will be delayed including pretrial conferences, status conferences, motion practices – including motions to suppress. While the Order’s impact on your jury trial has yet to be fully realized it is quite easy to see that there may be a profound impact on your trial’s setting as well.
While these delays may be significant, they nonetheless do not lessen the need for immediate strong legal representation in your criminal case. Evidence that you have still needs to be properly stored and maintained. Statements from witnesses you identify will still need to be documented and preserved. The deadlines for turning this information to the State have not been impacted by Idaho Supreme Court’s Order. Additionally, the rules relating to discovery requests and possible motions, including motions to dismiss based on constitutional grounds, have not been changed and still need to be followed.
Now more than ever, the need for quality, uncomplicated legal representation is essential. Gravis Law specializes in uncomplicating the legal process and our attorneys can provide the experience, writings skills and know how to ensure your rights are preserved in civil and criminal proceedings.