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.
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.
- ACBA In-Person Events Postponed
All in-person ACBA events have been postponed through at least Aug. 31, 2020.
- Committee, Division and Section Events Held Remotely
While in-person events are on hold, ACBA Committee, Division and Section events are continuing to be held remotely via Zoom video conference. Chairs may also opt to hold events and/or meetings by conference call. ACBA staff liaisons will share conference call information, zoom login information and other materials. For a list of upcoming events and meetings, visit the ACBA Calendar.
- Substantive Practice Area Town Hall Meetings
As a way to help members adjust to these unprecedented times, the ACBA held a series of practice area-specific Town Hall Meetings. The virtual events, held via Zoom, enabled attorneys to discuss impacts, best practices and resources specifically relative to that practice area. Recordings of the Town Hall Meetings that have been held thus far are available as resources for all members.
- Online and Webinar CLEs
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled that attorneys can earn all 12 of their credits online during 2020, given the Coronavirus situation. The ACBA is scheduling live webinar CLEs where members can earn distance learning credits in real time. The schedule of upcoming webinar CLEs can be viewed at the ACBA Calendar. Additionally, the ACBA has more than 50 online CLEs, featuring some of the most popular offerings from dozens of practice areas presented during the past year, available 24/7 at the ACBA Online CLE Center. The ACBA is continually evaluating the situation and will begin to hold in-person CLEs again when it is safe to do so.
- Pittsburgh Legal Journal
The ACBA will continue publishing the Pittsburgh Legal Journal, the official legal journal of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, online three times a week (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays) for the foreseeable future. No subscription is required during the pandemic. The latest edition and an archive of recent editions is available here.
President Judge Kim Berkeley Clark has ordered these changes 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. It is also available on the ACBA website and through the ACBA Sidebar e-newsletter. The current edition of the Lawyers Journal is available here.
Court and Legal Practice Updates
- September Civil Division Trials to be Mediated
Cases on the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Civil Division September Trial List will be mediated through the Court’s pilot mediation program, per an order from Administrative Judge Christine Ward. The Court has appointed pro bono mediators who volunteered to assist with the potential case backlog created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mediators will contact attorneys to schedule mediations. Any case that does not settle at mediation will remain on the September Trial List. Click here for the full list of mediators.
- Allegheny Co. Criminal Division Changes
Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas has amended its emergency operations order for the Criminal Division. The new actions include holding no in-person hearings, numerous matters to be held remotely and those that cannot be held remotely shall be continued. For the full order, click here.
This order does not apply to summary or statutory appeals, or any cases in Pittsburgh Municipal Court or before any Magisterial District Judge.
- Evictions Prohibited through Aug. 31
Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas President Judge Kim Berkeley Clark has ruled that the commencement of new residential landlord tenant actions where the eviction is based solely on non-payment of rent or on a tenant holding over or exceeding the term of a lease shall be prohibited through Aug. 31.
- Positive Cases of COVID-19 in Court System
Click here for a full listing of positive COVID-19 cases in the Allegheny County Court System that have been reported to the ACBA.
- Masks Required in Pennsylvania Courts
The July 1 Pennsylvania order requiring all individuals in the state to wear masks when leaving home applies to activities in court houses and other government facilities. The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts, with very limited exceptions. For additional information, click here.
- Noncontact Attorney Visits Permitted at the Allegheny Co. Jail
Allegheny County Jail now allows attorney visits to the facility. For the foreseeable future, attorney visits will take place between 9 a.m.
and 5 p.m., seven days per week. Strict safety measures have been instituted and must be followed. For additional details, click here.
- Allegheny Co. Court of Common Pleas Emergency Extended to Aug. 31
President Judge Kim Berkeley Clark of the Fifth Judicial District has extended the judicial emergency of the The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ended the statewide judicial emergency, allowing local emergency orders and directives to remain in place at the discretion of president judges. In the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, President Judge Kim Berkeley Clark has extended the judicial emergency through Aug. 31. With the new order, Allegheny County Courts are open for many matters with numerous provisions and safety guidelines in place. For the full court order, click here.
- Procedures for Common Pleas Judges
The Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas website details the emergency operating procedures for each judge. The site also includes a helpful FAQ.
Remote Notarization, Municipal Meetings Authorized
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law legislation allowing remote notarization of all documents and municipalities to meet remotely. Click here to read the legislation.
- Pa. Court Operations by County
For a county-by-county breakdown of changes to court operations and proceedings across Pennsylvania, 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 information and indictments. For additional information, visit the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania website.
- 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.
- Landlord Tenant FAQs
Many questions have emerged surrounding landlord-tenant legal issues amid the COVID-19 crisis. The Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas has issued a FAQ document to help guide attorneys on the topic.
- All CLE Credits Can be Obtained Online in 2020
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has temporarily modified rule 108(e) to allow attorneys to get all 12 of their CLE credits online in 2020, due to the Coronavirus crisis. Previously, a minimum of six credits were required to be earned via in-person CLE courses. To read the April 15 order, click here. For a related order on the rule as it applies to members of the minor judiciary, click here.
- Temporary Limited Practice Allowed for Those Unable to Take Bar Exam
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has ordered that law school grads unable to take the upcoming bar exam due to the Coronavirus crisis will be permitted to temporarily engage in limited practice of law, following specific guidelines outlined in an April 27 Court Order. Additionally, the bar exam scheduled for July has been moved to September 9-10.