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What the “Reopening” Means for the Courts

On June 5th, the Philadelphia-metro entered the “yellow phase” of reopening. This new phase lifted the stay-at-home order and allows for some businesses to reopen in compliance with CDC and social distancing guidelines. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued an order that terminates the statewide Judicial Emergency as of June 1, 2020. (A copy of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court order can be found here.)This order permits local courts to maintain their current administrative orders.

In response to this new phase of reopening, some Pennsylvania courts will resume activity that was previously suspended.

Philadelphia County: The Philadelphia County Courts shall remain “generally closed” except for in-person emergencies, such as protection from abuse matters, that have continued to operate during the state of emergency. All conferences and hearing that were scheduled to take place during the declared state of emergency are being rescheduled. Unless directed otherwise, litigants and counsel should expect to appear via advanced communication technology for the foreseeable future.

Montgomery County: The Montgomery County Courts will continue to hold conferences via advanced communication technology. The Prothonotary’s office shall continue to remain open for in-person filings. Further, the requisite Seminar for Separated and Divorced Parents and Custody Mediation Orientation are reinstated as of June 1, 2020 for all cases filed on or after June 1, 2020.

Delaware County: The Delaware County Courts will begin to resume normal operations as June 1, 2020. Whereas the court may continue to conduct conferences and hearing using advanced communication technology when possible, in-person hearing will begin as of this date. Although the court has announced the conclusion of the state of emergency, the courts remain empowered to limit in person access, suspend jury trials, and take other precautions deemed necessary.

Chester County: The Chester County in-person court functions are being restored effective June 2, 2020.  Although the courthouse and adjacent building will be open for business, all COVID-19 related safety precautions and protocols such as social distancing, masks, staggered court proceedings and use of advanced communication technology when appropriate, shall remain in effect. The court warns parties and practitioners to expect delays for scheduled proceedings. 

Bucks County: The Bucks County court shall continue to conduct custody conferences using advanced communication technology. No other matters, with the exception of in-person emergencies, such as protection from abuse matters are being heard at this time. The Prothonotary’s office remains open for in-person filings.