COVID-19 Impact on Pittsburgh Legal Community
The Allegheny County Bar Association’s top priority is the health and safety of our members, staff and the general public. As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, the ACBA is exercising extreme caution in an effort to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
However, the organization is fully functional as employees work remotely to fulfill our commitment to serve the Pittsburgh legal community. ACBA members should feel free to reach out to ACBA staff as needed.
Additionally, the ACBA is committed to keeping the Pittsburgh legal community informed about how the COVID-19 crisis is impacting the courts, the Bar Association and the profession. The ACBA will publish the Sidebar e-newsletter more frequently than usual as news and information dictates. Look for updates on Facebook at Facebook.com/AlleghenyBar and on Twitter @AlleghenyCoBar. Extended coverage can be found in the Lawyers Journal newspaper.
Specific details are below:
- ACBA In-Person Events Postponed
All in-person ACBA events and CLEs scheduled through April 14 have been postponed indefinitely. The status of in-person ACBA and ACBF events scheduled after April 14 will be reevaluated in the days and weeks ahead.
- Committee, Division and Section Meetings – Conference Calls
ACBA Committee, Division and Section meetings will continue to be held – at the chair’s discretion – via conference call. Staff liaisons will circulate agendas, minutes and other materials for these meetings. View the ACBA calendar for a full upcoming meeting schedule.
- Online CLEs
The ACBA has more than 50 online CLEs in dozens of practice areas available to be viewed for credit 24/7 at cle.acba.org.
- Pittsburgh Legal Journal
The ACBA will continue online publishing of the Pittsburgh Legal Journal, the official legal journal of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, but has moved to a twice-per-week schedule (Wednesdays and Fridays) through at least April 14. The Journal is available online at www.PittsburghLegalJournal.org. The latest edition is available here.
President Judge Kim Berkeley Clark has ordered these changes. You already created the link in the interest of public health. Judge Clark also specified in her order that proofs of publication for legal ads in the Pittsburgh Legal Journal may be verified and signed by a notary public only, instead of a notary public and affiant as is typically required. In addition, the proofs of publication may be mailed or emailed.
Please do not send hard copy mail to the ACBA’s Koppers Building address. As the ACBA adheres to social distancing guidelines, no employees are working in the office. The ACBA has three convenient ways to submit legal notices.
- Lawyers Journal
The Lawyers Journal newspaper – the ACBA’s flagship publication containing news on the legal community, ACBA happenings and substantive legal articles – will continue to be published as normal, every-other Friday and delivered to members through the mail. The March 27 edition of the Lawyers Journal is available here. Note that this electronic edition contains a completely updated cover story – “What you need to know about coronavirus in the workplace” – as rules and regulations in this area are changing almost daily. Many of the changes were put into place after the hard copy edition of the March 27 Lawyers Journal was printed, so the hard copy edition members receive in the mail will not contain this updated version of the article. This story will continue to be updated in the electronic version of the March 27 Lawyers Journal as rules and regulations continue to evolve on this topic.
Court Updates and Notices
- Attorney Visits to County Jail Suspended
Due to Coronavirus pandemic, and for protection of those incarcerated, the Allegheny County Jail, with the approval of Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas President Judge Kim Berkeley Clark, has temporarily suspended all attorney visits to the jail. Attorneys may meet and confer with their clients by telephone.
In order to guarantee the confidentiality of these attorney/client phone calls and to ensure that they are not monitored or recorded, the jail has created a “Legal Privacy Request Form” which can be accessed here. Attorneys should fill out the form and email it to the jail as per the instructions to ensure that their calls are not recorded. For additional information, or with questions, attorneys can call 412-350-2207 or 412-350-2247.
- Custody Orders
Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas President Judge Kim Berkeley Clark has ordered that all of the court’s custody orders that were entered before the court entered emergency status remain in effect, unaffected by Gov. Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home order, unless otherwise modified by the court. To read the full order, click here.
- Emergency Custody Motions
Any emergency custody motions filed by counsel in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Family Division in cases with a judicial assignment should be emailed to the assigned Judge through the emergency email addresses listed in this document.
- Supreme Court of Pa. Updates ‘Essential Functions’
On March 24, the Supreme Court of Pa. updated its list of essential functions for Courts of Common Pleas in the Commonwealth to include the commencement of a civil action, by praecipe for a writ of summons, for purposes of tolling a statute of limitations. To read the full order, click here.
- Some Law Offices Open on Restricted Basis
Amid the order for “non-life-sustaining businesses” in Pennsylvania to close physical offices, some law offices may stay open on a restricted basis. Law firms seeking an exemption can get more information and formally request a waiver here. For a list explaining what is a life-sustaining business and what is not, click here.
- CLE Deadline Extended Aug. 31
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has extended the April 30 compliance period deadline to Aug. 31, 2020. All other compliance period requirements remain at this time. More information is available in this order from the Supreme Court.
- Swear In Witnesses Remotely
Gov. Tom Wolf has ordered that court reporters can swear in witnesses remotely and without an affidavit signed by counsel. To read the whole order, click here.
- Pennsylvania Courts Closed Due to Coronavirus
After restricting and/or postponing numerous court processes and procedures earlier in the week, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has closed all courts to the public for all nonessential functions through at least April 3 due to the COVID-19 crisis, at the urging of Dr. Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health. This includes the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, which will be closed through at least April 14, and all intermediate and appellate courts.
To read the news release on the closing – including details regarding what the court views as essential functions – click here. To read the full order from the Supreme Court, click here. For the March 26 order from President Judge Kim Berkeley Clark regarding the latest, updated specifics of the closing of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, click here. To read the letter from Dr. Levine, click here.
- Procedures for Teleconference Hearings
Due to the Coronavirus crisis, the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas is holding many proceedings via teleconference. To view the protocol, as outlined by President Judge Kim Berkeley Clark, click here. This protocol applies only to those judges who have indicated they’re ready to hold teleconference hearings. Presently this includes Juvenile Court judges; additional information will be shared as additional judges move to this protocol.
- Procedures for Judge Cathleen Bubash
For updated operating procedures for The Hon. Cathleen Bubash in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Family Division during the judicial emergency, click here.
- U.S. District Court Adjusting Procedures
The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania is adjusting procedures, including changing the protocol for initial criminal procedures, changing the procedures regarding jury trials and certain other proceedings and adjusting the process for the computation of time for filing of informations and indictments. For additional information, visit the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania website.
- Sheriff’s Sales Suspended until June 1
The Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas announced that all cases listed for the regularly scheduled April Allegheny County Sherriff’s Sale shall be postponed until the June 1 Sheriff’s Sale. For additional information, click here.
The Allegheny County Bar Association is committed to helping Pittsburgh-area attorneys respond optimally throughout the COVID-19 situation. Click here
for additional resources that may be of service to you.