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Nevada Courts Are Opening Up; What Will That Look Like?

Author: Victoria Hightower

Guest Editor: Wendy Skillman

July 8, 2020 12:00pm

On March 12, 2020, Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak issued a Declaration of Emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  On March 13, 2020, the President of the United States declared a nationwide emergency pursuant to §501(6) of the Robert T. Stanford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 5121-5207.  To mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the Center for Disease Control recommended social distancing and mandated wearing facemasks.  Governor Sisolak, in Directive 021, also recommended social distancing and mandated the wearing of facemasks by employees interfacing with the public.

Since March 2020, the Eighth Judicial Court of Nevada (“District Court”), exercising its ministerial judicial powers, has issued numerous administrative orders on an emergency basis.  These administrative orders changed the District Court’s procedures to minimize person-to-person contact and mitigate the risk associated with the COVID-10 pandemic, while continuing to provide essential court services.

On May 29, 2020, Nevada entered into Phase 2 of recovery.  On June 1, 2020, the Eighth Judicial Court of Nevada issued its most recent administrative order, Administrative Order (“Admin. Order”) 20-17. In drafting the Admin Order, the District Court expressed its commitment to provide a safe and healthy workplace for its employees and to prevent the spread of illness among its employees and the public. To those ends, Admin. Order 20-17[1] orders the following precautions.

Screening protocols. The District Court will maintain notices at the entrance of all District Court facilities advising that the following people may not enter the facility:

    1. Persons who have travelled out of the country in the past 14 days or who reside with someone who has travelled out of the country in the past 14 days;
    2. Persons who have been asked to self-quarantine by any doctor, hospital, or health agency;
    3. Persons who have been diagnosed with coronavirus and not medically cleared or persons who have had contact in the past 14 days with anyone diagnosed with coronavirus and not medically cleared;
    4. Persons with unexplained fever, cough or shortness of breath.

Appearances by other means.  The District Court strongly encourages appearances by means other than in-person appearances.  In addition, the requirement for a formal written notice or any appearance by alternative means is suspended.

Mandatory face coverings.  The District Court requires all employees, attorneys, vendors and employees of any organization or entity who work in a Court facility to cover their noses and mouths while in any common areas of the facilities.  Children under the age of two and individuals who are unable to remove the face covering without assistance are exempt from this requirement.  Individuals who are unable to wear a face covering should arrange to appear by alternative means.

Meetings.  The District Court strongly encourages meetings by telephone, videoconference or e-mail.

Social Distancing.  District Court Judges, Court Administration and Court employees must maintain social distancing at all times while at work.  Members of the public must maintain social distancing at all times in common areas of court facilities.

Clerk’s Office remains closed to In-person filing. Documents must be filed electronically or mailed.

Continuances. Continuances or any trial or evidentiary hearing will be considered on a case-by-case basis taking into account difficulties attorneys may face in obtaining witness or preparing for proceedings in light of COVID-19.

Courtesy copies.  The Court will not accept paper courtesy copies for any matter.

Depositions. In-person depositions may go forward starting July 1, 2020, as long as social distancing protocols are observed.

Discovery. The tolling of discovery ends on July 1, 2020.  Requests to continue discovery after this date will be granted on a case-by-case basis.

Hearings. All District Court hearings should go forward.  Non-evidentiary hearings must be conducted by video or telephonic means unless decided on the papers or directed by the District Court Judge.

Original Signature Requirements.  An electronic signature will have the same effect as an original signature, with the exception of documents requiring a notary signature.

Proposed Orders.  Proposed Orders should be submitted electronically.

Settlement conferences.  Settlement conferences are encouraged and may be held by alternative means.

Extension of time deadlines.  The COVID-19 emergency constitutes “good cause” and “excusable neglect” warranting an extension of time in non-essential civil type cases.

Stay of Cases.  A complete stay of civil cases will be considered on a case-by-case basis.  

Evictions and foreclosures. Evictions and foreclosures remain stayed.

Short Trials. Cases set for trial in the next 90 days must be rescheduled.

Admin. Order 20-17 expires on June 30, 2020.

What does this mean for civil matters?  The ending of mandatory virtual depositions and the ending of the discovery stay evidences the Courts are now focusing on how matters can move forward.

What will the “new normal look like”? The “new normal” for the foreseaeable future will consist of doing whatever can practically be done  virtually and taking social distancing precautions for matters that must be conducted in person.

 

[1] This article will only address the portions of Admin. Order 20-17 pertaining to civil matters.

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