While we’ve all been hearing about Coronavirus for the past two weeks or so, this past week has seen the most drastic and impacting of events surrounding this subject:
Seemingly, almost everything has been shut down around us: Important government offices & agencies, colleges & universities, grammar & high schools, sports games, businesses left & right. Uncertainty seems to be the order of the day.
Unfortunately, regardless of this virus and the measures being taken to deal with it, many people will still face a variety of criminal law problems, both major and minor, during this period of uncertainty. As a result, our office has been receiving a lot of calls from existing and potential new clients, wanting to know both what the situation is with the court system, and wanting to know if they could still meet with me as their cases move forward, or if other legal problems suddenly develop. As for meeting with me, the answer is, yes. No one here has tested positive for this virus, and so long as clients that need to meet with me also have not tested positive for this virus, I am happy to meet with you at your home, as my website advertises, and obviously also speak with you by phone. No one who is facing a serious legal problem or issue should delay speaking with or meeting with an attorney due to this present issue.
However, the Massachusetts court system has been severely impacted. While courts were due to open today after being closed Monday and Tuesday of this week, the state’s Supreme Judicial Court ordered yesterday that the courts remain closed for normal business until April 6, and more information on thayt Order can be found by clicking here.
- All arrests and other matters for which people are being charged with criminal offenses (which of course happen every day), are being handled by Massachusetts District and Superior court judges conducting arraignments by phone conference or video conference.
- Judges and clerks will be available only to conduct emergency hearings (such as restraining orders, bail hearings and probation violation hearings) that cannot be resolved through a video conference or telephone hearing.
- Bail reviews will be conducted on a conference phone call with assistant district attorneys and defense attorneys. Defendants who are unable to make bail, or are ordered held without bail, will be sent to county jailhouses.
- As far as administrative filings and similar non-judicial matters, clerk’s offices will have limited staffing to process emergency matters only.
- Criminal trials that were already underway when this emergency first developed will be adjudicated as a mistrial, and new trials will be re-scheduled for those cases when the Supreme Judicial Court declares it is safe to do so. Trials that were scheduled to commence prior to April 17 will, at a future date, be rescheduled. This process is expected to take about six weeks.
- For cases that involve grand juries – which are special juries that hear cases that prosecutors wanted to indict (transfer) into Superior Court (vs. prosecute in a District Court), all grand juries that were empaneled prior to April 21, and any grand juries whose terms are scheduled to expire on or before April 6, will be extended until April 21.
For clients facing a criminal law problem: Don’t speak with the police before speaking with me first. Call me immediately, and I will either confer with you by phone or meet you at a police station, if you have been arrested.
In the meantime, as I’m sure you know, you’re in good hands. Call any time, and take care until we speak.