Editor’s note: This story is being regularly updated with the latest law-related responses to COVID-19.
The latest: Updated 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 31
The Indiana Supreme Court has issued five orders, adjusting procedures to give attorneys and law students more latitude during the coronavirus emergency.
“We’re hearing from lawyers, judges, litigants, and law students that the legal system must be more flexible in this trying time,” Chief Justice Loretta Rush said. “The Supreme Court is ordering rule changes to ensure certain legal services can be provided with remote capabilities and extending the bar exam application deadline.”
The orders are as follows:
Order in case 20S-MS-236: suspends language that might prohibit notaries, court reporters and others from administering oaths to witnesses by remote video.
Order in case 20S-MS-237: identifies conditions under which wills and other estate-planning documents may be signed by witnesses and testators remotely.
Order in case 20S-MS-238: provides direction on the impact of emergency orders on such critical family law matters as child support, child custody and parenting time.
Order in case 20S-MS-239: relaxes the maximum number of allowed online hours for attorney and judicial officer education, which means more professional requirements can be met through distance education rather than in-person learning.
Order in case 20S-MS-240: extends the deadline for filing an application to take the July 2020 bar exam.
Chief Administrative Office Justin Forkner expressed gratitude to a number of leaders and organizations that helped bring the issues to the court’s attention.
“The collaborative nature of Indiana’s government leaders – especially the governor’s office – and input from the Indiana State Bar Association has allowed the court to identify and address legal issues during this emergency with greater efficiency,” he said.
The court also has a website that provides guidance and details on the judicial branch’s response to COVID-19.
Cases handled by the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office continue to be rescheduled or continued as the Indianapolis courts adjust operations in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“In recent weeks the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our community in unprecedented ways, affecting nearly every aspect of life as we know it and the Criminal Justice system in Marion County is no exception,” Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears said in a statement Monday. “The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office is working to keep our community informed on matters regarding criminal cases and crime prevention tips.”
In traffic court, cases will be continued until on or after April 6, the prosecutor’s office said. Due to the volume of cases, court staff will not update the chronological case summary before the traffic court reopens April 6.
Jury trials may be rescheduled until April 15 or a later date, and additional hearings may likewise be rescheduled until April 6 or a later date, including bench trials. Specific case information can be found at mycase.in.gov, or individuals can contact the Criminal Courts Division at 317-327-1447.
Prospective jurors are advised to call 317-327-8992 to check the status of their summonses.
Also, as was previously announced, all child support hearings will be continued until on or after May 6. Child support services will continue to be available by phone at 317-327-1800 or by email at [email protected].
Walk-in assistance at all MCPO locations will remain unavailable until further notice.
Additionally, the following crime prevention programs have been delayed or canceled:
- CyberSafe presentations: Canceled until further notice.
- Neighborhood and community outreach: Attendance at group meetings by MCPO staff has been suspended. Neighborhood outreach coordinators will continue to share information and be available by email. Individuals requesting remote attendance by the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office may contact Anitra Tyler at [email protected].
- Second Chance Workshops: The April 24 Second Chance Workshop at the Warren Township Trustee’s Office has been postponed. Individuals who registered will be contacted with the new date once it has been set. Questions regarding the Second Chance Workshops can be directed to [email protected].
- James E. Waters Community Mediation Center: Volunteer mediator training is on hold until further notice.
The Indiana Supreme Court has announced new deadlines for appellate filings after deadlines scheduled to fall between March 23 and April 6 – encompassing the time of Indiana’s stay at home order – were tolled in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The high court on March 23 had issued an order that tolled those deadlines. A joint order subsequently issued March 25 by Chief Justice Loretta Rush and Indiana Court of Appeals Chief Judge Cale Bradford lays out specific deadlines for filings due in that timeframe and thereafter.
With respect to appellate filings in the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, both courts ordered that:
- Filings currently due on or between March 23 and April 6 will be due on April 21.
- Filings currently due on or between April 7 and April 21 will be due 15 days after their current due date.
- Filings due after April 21 remain due on their current due date.
- These due dates apply to all filing in the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court, including but not limited to the following: (1) notices of appeal; (2) assembly of the clerk’s record, filing of the notice of completion of clerk’s record, and filing of the notice of completion of transcript; (3) filing of the transcript; (4) interlocutory appeals; (5) all briefs, appendices, petitions for rehearing and transfer, and motions to tax cost; and (6) original actions.
- If additional time is needed, an extension of time should be sought pursuant to Appellate Rules 10, 11 or 35.
On March 23, the Supreme Court had announced that the global coronavirus pandemic has created an emergency in the Indiana high court such that appellate timeliness and filing rules should be suspended. The court also canceled appellate oral arguments scheduled for April.
Rush signed the order under Administrative Rule 17 in response to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s executive order requiring Hoosiers to stay home except for essential travel for essential purposes. The governor’s order includes the closure of state government offices, including the Indiana Statehouse and Government Center, to the general public.
“We are balancing the health and well-being of our communities with the need to maintain essential court operations and to provide legal services to Hoosiers at this time,” Rush said in a statement. “The Governor’s Executive Orders take that balance into account. The Supreme Court is directing appropriate actions to provide guidance to the bench and bar.”
The emergency impedes litigants’ and courts’ abilities to comply with statutory deadlines and procedural rules, the court’s order says. In declaring an emergency in the Supreme Court and Clerk of Courts, the high court:
- Tolled all laws, rules and procedures setting time limits for appellate filings through April 6. This includes notices of appeal; assembly of clerk’s record and filing of transcript; copying the clerk’s record; interlocutory appeals; expedited appeals for payment of placement and/or services; briefs, appendices, petitions for rehearing, petitions to transfer and petitions for review of Tax Court decisions; and motions to tax costs.
- Suspended Appellate Rule 23(A)(1) regarding filing by personal delivery to the clerk or the “rotunda filing drop box.” Electronic filing will remain available, and documents exempted from e-filing should be filed via U.S. mail or a third-party commercial carrier. Parties who can’t e-file but have an emergency appellate matter should contact Supreme Court Services at 317-233-8697 or [email protected].
- Tolled all laws, rules and procedures setting time limits for speedy trials in criminal and juvenile proceedings, public health, mental health, and appellate matters; all judgments, support and other orders; statutes of limitations; and in all other civil and criminal matters before the Indiana Tax Court and circuit, superior and city/town courts, to the extent not already provided for under an AR 17 emergency order. No interest will be due or charged during the tolled period.
The order does not, however, prohibit trial courts from proceeding with matters deemed essential or urgent.
Finally, for Tax Court and appellate inquiries, the clerk’s office will remain available at 317-232-1930. Questions about trial court matters must be directed to the local clerks’ offices.
“In all other respects not inconsistent with this order, this Court’s March 16 order in this matter, and all other orders granting emergency relief to trial courts under Administrative Rule 17, remain in full force and effect.”
Courts in all 92 counties have submitted AR 17 petitions for emergency operations. The full list of approved plans is available online.
The governor’s stay-at-home order exempts judges, court personnel and certain other judicial branch stakeholders, along with “essential government functions” determined by each governmental body. Additionally, “legal services” are within the category of “essential businesses and operations” encouraged to remain open but subject to social distancing requirements.
The Indiana Southern District Court is further revising its operations in response to COVID-19, announcing March 24 that all payments via phone are suspended and that the ban on pro se electronic filing will be lifted.
Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson issued another General Order in response to the “unabated” increase in COVID-19 infections and the likelihood that the number of infections will continue to rise. Already all four courthouses within the Indiana Southern District have been closed to the public.
“Court staff are now teleworking as much as is practicable, while still allowing for the continuation of essential functions. Due to the reduction in the number of staff onsite at the four courthouses of the Southern District of Indiana, telephone calls may not always be answered immediately; however, callers will be able to leave a message, which will be returned as promptly as possible,” a Tuesday news release said.
Per the March 24 order, all payments by telephone are temporarily suspended.
Filing fees will be accepted electronically through CM/ECF or by a check or money order, payable to Clerk, U.S. District Court, and mailed to U.S. District Court, 46 E. Ohio St., Room 105, Indianapolis, 46204. Cause numbers should be listed on all checks.
Payments for criminal fines, special assessment and restitution may also be made via check or money order to Clerk, U.S. District Court, using the same address.
Additionally, fines, assessments and restitution can be paid online with a credit or debit card or a checking account through the U.S. Treasury’s Pay.gov website. Questions about creating a Pay.gov account should be directed to the U.S. Probation Department at 317-229-3750. Questions about logging in to an existing account should be directed to Pay.gov at 1-800-624-1373.
Additional questions about online criminal debt payments can be directed to the court’s financial services team at finance.insd.uscourts.gov. The court advises that questions should not be directed to the clerk’s office.
For pro se litigants, the July 2019 ban on filing via email is temporarily lifted, effective March 23 until further order of the court. Electronically filed pro se documents must comply with the court’s procedures, including:
- Documents must be e-signed (s/Name) or signed by hand and scanned.
- Documents must be attached to the email in either a Microsoft Word document or PDF.
- Emails should be sent to [email protected]. Filings sent to any other @insd.uscourts.gov address will be disregarded.
- The email must contain the filer’s name, address and phone number.
- The subject line for new cases should read “PRO SE FILING – NEW CASE.”
- For existing cases, the subject line should read “PRO SE FILING – [cause number].”
No additional comments, questions or messages can be included in a pro se email filing. Any such correspondence will be disregarded.
Additionally, the court noted, the new pro se e-filing procedures do not alter parties’ responsibilities to effect service as required by Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 4 and 5.
The Indiana Southern District Court is also warning litigants against scammers who “may attempt to take advantage of the confusion and fear caused by the pandemic … .” To that end, the court said it will never contact a person and demand personal information or payment via phone or email.
People who believe they have been contacted by a scammer should hang up immediately and report the incident to the Federal Communications Commission at https://ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1.
Finally, the court noted that orders and information related to Bankruptcy Court matters, including meetings of creditors, can be viewed online at www.insb.uscourts.gov.
On March 20, all federal jury trials in the Southern District of Indiana were continued and all courthouses closed to the public until further notice.
The order signed by Magnus-Stinson also orders courthouse security officers to screen all visitors to federal courthouses in Indianapolis, Evansville, New Albany and Terre Haute for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. Those who exhibit potential symptoms will be denied courthouse access, an order that also applies to the Southern District’s satellite probation offices in Bloomington and Noblesville.
Probation supervision and investigations will continue, the order says.
Criminal trials will be excluded from the federal Speedy Trial Act under the order, which otherwise permits civil and criminal proceedings to largely proceed, though many may be converted to telephone or video conferences at the discretion of the judicial officer.
Deliveries to the courthouses will continue as directed under the order, which says courts will facilitate key witness participation.
The order further cancels naturalization ceremonies until further notice, though those who qualify for naturalization can arrange for individual citizenship oaths from a judicial officer.
Additionally, the court has created a COVID-19 response page on its website that contains all orders, press releases and other information regarding court operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like its Southern District sister, the Indiana Northern District Court noted in an order that it is not possible to summon a pool of potential jurors and conduct a jury trial without exposing potential jurors, counsel and others to COVID-19.
The Northern District thus ordered that all plea colloquies and sentencing hearings in criminal proceedings scheduled to begin before May 1 be continued. Those hearings will be rescheduled to a date after May 1, with case-by-case exceptions from the assigned district or magistrate judge.
Grand juries will continue to meet during the week of March 16, but grand juries thereafter will be continued until the week beginning April 13.
“To the extent criminal proceedings may be conducted via phone or videoconference, in-person proceedings will be converted to telephonic or videoconference proceedings by the assigned District or Magistrate Judge after consultation with counsel,” the order says.
Delays in criminal trials and other criminal matters caused by the continuances implemented by the order will be excluded under the Speedy Trial Act pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3161(h)(7)(A).
Additionally, all in-person civil court proceedings will be converted to telephonic or videoconference proceedings. Case-by-case exceptions to conduct nonjury, in-person proceedings will also be at the discretion of the assigned district or magistrate judge after consultation with counsel.
Meanwhile, the Lafayette District Court Clerk’s Office has closed. Those seeking assistance can call 219-852-6500 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. EST Monday through Friday.
Also over concerns about the coronavirus outbreak, the LSAT has been canceled for March and the April test date is in question.
The Law School Admission Council sent a letter to all those who had registered to take the March exam, notifying them of the decision to cancel. To ease the impact, all the March registrants in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have been automatically registered for the April 25 exam.
However, the LSAC pointed out that since the severity and duration of COVID-19 are unknown, the plans for administering the test in the April and June could change. The council told registrants that it would make a decision on next month’s test no later than April 10.
“Cancelling the March test is a difficult step, but we believe it is the most responsible course of action to protect test takers, test center personnel, and the broader community,” the LSAC wrote in its letter to March registrants.
The LSAC also said it is “aggressively exploring” alternative ways to administer the LSAT. To protect the health of test-takers and administrators, the council is exploring secure remote-proctored tests and an additional spring/summer administration, among other options.
Also, the LSAC is working with law schools that are still accepting applications for the fall 2020 enrollment to push the deadlines for candidates. The council said it is confident “that our admission community will continue to respond to this extraordinary crisis with compassion and agility.”
Indiana Supreme Court: The state’s high court has issued an order advising Indiana trial courts statewide to implement all relevant and necessary portions of their continuity of operations plan in conjunction with county emergency and public health authorities.
The judicial branch stated March 16 that it is “prioritizing the health and well-being of its employees and the community, while ensuring that essential court operations continue,” with Rush monitoring the situation with guidance from the Indiana State Department of Health.
“We also know our trial court judges across the state are focused on ensuring essential court functions continue while being mindful of the safety of their communities,” Rush said in a statement. “The Judicial Branch has avenues in place to ensure court operations at all levels continue.”
In its order advising trial courts statewide, the Indiana Supreme Court ordered that courts implement “all relevant and necessary portions of its continuity of operations plan in conjunction with county emergency and public health authorities.”
“Appropriate public health responses to the COVID-19 outbreak will likely require limiting trial court operations and inhibit litigants’ and courts’ ability to comply with statutory deadlines and rules of procedure applicable in courts of this state,” Rush wrote in the March 16 order.
Trial courts are now directed to utilize Indiana Office of Court Services assistance to prepare appropriate emergency local plans to protect the health of court personnel, court users and the public through enhanced social distancing, the order says.
Additionally, trial courts should consider whether local needs warrant petitioning for emergency measures under Indiana Administrative Rule 17, including:
- Tolling for a limited time all laws, rules and procedures setting time limits for speedy trials in criminal and juvenile proceedings, public health, mental health and appellate matters; all judgments, support and other orders; and in all other civil and criminal matters before all Indiana trial courts
- Suspending and/or rescheduling criminal and civil jury trials for a limited time, subject in criminal cases to the constitutional right to speedy trial and constitutional protection against double jeopardy
- Suspending new juror orientations, extending existing jury panels and/or postponing jury service to a later date for jurors who are ill, caring for someone who is ill or in a high-risk category
- Continuing and/or rescheduling non-essential hearings, excluding emergency matters, domestic violence hearings and evidentiary hearings in criminal cases
- Using telephonic or video technology in lieu of in-person appearances, unless a litigant’s due process rights would be violated
- Flexibility allowing judges to exercise general jurisdiction over cases in each other’s courts
- Issuing summonses in lieu of bench warrants or notices of failure to appear
- Considering the existence of flu or flu-like symptoms in any attorney, self-represented litigant or witness expected to testify; exposure of such individuals to anyone who has or may have COVID-19; or status of such individuals in a high risk category as constituting “good cause” to either appear remotely or continue a court setting, to the extent possible without violating statutory or constitutional rights.
- Allowing any attorney wishing to appear remotely for any status conference or non-evidentiary hearing without further leave of court upon filing a “Notice of Remote Appearance” in the court in which the matter will be heard
- Subject to applicable constitutional limitations, limiting spectators in courtrooms to the extent necessary to provide adequate social distancing
- For trial court clerks, making drop boxes available for conventionally filed documents.
- Posting signage at all public entry points to judicial facilities advising individuals not to enter the building if they have been exposed to or have tested positive for the virus, if they are exhibiting symptoms including fever, cough and shortness of breath, if they have traveled domestically to areas with widespread community transmission, or if they have visited or come into contact with a person who has visited China, Iran, South Korea, Europe or any high-risk country in the last 14 days
- Allowing individuals with legitimate court business to stay home and request a continuance by phone to the county clerk if they are ill, caring for someone who is ill or in a high-risk category
- Providing sanitation materials such as hand sanitizer or bleach wipes at all courtroom entrances and counsel tables
If an at-risk person attempts to enter a court office in violation of the protocols, the order says courts should consider permitting bailiffs and other security personnel to deny entrance.
The Office of Judicial Administration has already put in place social distancing and telework options for its employees, the high court reiterated. All levels of the courts have e-filing and other technology in place that enable social distancing measures.
“AR 17 provides the framework for trial courts to put operational changes in place in the face of an emergency. Chief Justice Rush has already signed orders allowing for adjustments to jury trials, hearings, and other business practices as requested by counties. The Supreme Court is prioritizing review of any AR 17 petitions filed,” the high court announced.
Additionally, a website with guidance to courts and messages to staff is providing details on the judiciary’s response to COVID-19.
Northern District: Individuals preparing to become citizens of the United States in the Indiana Northern District Court will have to wait after it canceled several naturalization ceremonies through April 24, 2020.
The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office is encouraging its employees to telework in response to the local emergence of the COVID-19 virus.
“The Marion County Prosecutor’s Office will maintain services to Marion County residents through this unprecedented situation,” Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears said in a statement. “We are encouraging employees to work from home as much as possible as the health and safety of our employees and members of the public is of the utmost importance.”
The prosecutor’s office says it has the capability to perform many of its duties and meet its responsibilities by phone, email and video conferencing.
Individuals with pending criminal matters are advised to reference www.mycase.in.gov to verify upcoming court hearings. Litigants can also contact via email or phone the assigned deputy prosecutor to verify scheduled case-related meetings, depositions and court hearings.
General questions or requests for assistance in contacting the appropriate deputy prosecutor should be directed to [email protected]. Walk-in assistance at all locations will not be available until further notice.
Additionally, all child support hearings will be continued until after May 6, as approved by the Marion Circuit Court. However, child support services will still be available by phone at 317-327-1800 or email at [email protected].
Marion County Juvenile Detention Facility: Unnecessary and non-essential public traffic at the Marion County Juvenile Detention Facility were suspended beginning March 16 for approved family members and volunteers. The youth will receive extra phone time. Additionally, youth who are ordered detained will be visually evaluated before being brought into the detention center.
Marion County Probation: Indianapolis courts said they will suspend client in-person reporting requirements through April 6. Instead, the activities will be conducted over the phone and on the computer.
Allen Superior Courts: In Allen County, all nonessential criminal hearings will be canceled during through April 13.
“The most solemn duty we have in the courts is to serve the public, whether by delivering justice or by taking the steps we are announcing today,” Allen Superior Chief Judge Andrea R. Trevino, also the administrative judge of the Family Relations Division, said in a March 18 news release announcing an emergency operations plan. “The most prudent thing we can do right now to protect and serve is to dramatically reduce the number of people required to come to the courthouse.”
The Indiana Supreme Court granted the northeastern Indiana county’s petition for emergency flexibility in response to COVID-19. But, the courts noted, “(n)o Allen County court functions will cease entirely for the time being.”
In the Allen County Criminal Division, bench trials will remain an option for defendants who request them.
Sentencings and guilty pleas will continue as scheduled. But for any in-person criminal court proceedings except sentencings, courtrooms will be limited to litigants, attorneys, staff and media.
Initial hearings, omnibus, trial settings and bond hearings will all occur via video. Fort Wayne City Court hearings will not be held this week.
Criminal Division services, including in-house classes and support groups, are suspended for two to three weeks. Additionally, social distancing procedures are in place for group client intake appointments.
For lower-risk clients who are in full compliance with the terms of supervision, case management appointments will be conducted via telephone until further notice.
In the Allen County Civil Division, no jury trials are currently scheduled before mid-May. For trials set for after mid-May, judges will enter orders on the use of juries in individual cases. No jury trials will be held while the COVID-19 crisis continues.
Small claims participants and attorneys may arrange for remote appearances via phone. Mortgage foreclosure hearings have already been moved to telephonic appearances. Further questions regarding small claims cases can be directed to [email protected].
Similarly, litigants in civil cases scheduled in the courthouse may arrange for telephonic appearances. The court is issuing orders regarding appearances and procedures in each case.
Eviction proceedings are temporarily stayed and will be rescheduled. The court will hold a weekly review to determine when to lift the stay.
Tenants in pending eviction cases must keep their landlords and the court updated with their current address, phone number and email address and should continue paying rent during the stay. However, landlords do not waive their right to request an eviction by accepting a payment.
If a tenant voluntarily vacates a residence, he or she must notify the landlord and the court and must return the keys.
Civil mediation may be conducted via telephone or video conference as directed by the assigned mediator.
Additionally, probate and guardianship hearings will move to remote appearances when possible. High-risk populations are often involved in these proceedings, the courts said, so reducing the number of participants at the courthouse is important. Strict social distancing will be implemented for in-person court appearances.
The Courthouse Annex is open to accept petitions for protection orders, which can also be electronically filed. Protection order trials are being reviewed and rescheduled to reduce the number of people at the annex at the same time. Cases involving people living in the same residence and those involving parental contact with children will be made a priority.
In all civil buildings, social distancing measures will be enacted and enforced.
For the Allen County Family Division, nonessential hearings are continued until further notice. That includes periodic reviews, permanency hearings, requests for travel, and children in need of services and termination of parental rights fact-findings, as well as all other hearings not directly related to the safety and protection of children.
Essential hearings – removal of children from parents, guardians or custodians; requests for placement in a more restrictive environment; protection orders; preliminary inquiries; hearings on medical procedures; Family Recovery Court; and others required by the court – will proceed as the court schedule permits and in accordance with statutory deadlines.
Finally, in the Allen County Juvenile Center, nonessential hearings in Family/IV-D Court are continued for a minimum of 30 days. Pleadings alleging emergency circumstances will be reviewed and scheduled accordingly.
Proceedings such as case management and pretrial conferences that can be conducted telephonically will be held as scheduled. Additionally, warrant cases involving adults at the Allen County Jail will be conducted via video as scheduled. Protection order cases will also be scheduled as normal, with hearings held within 30 days.
For probation/juvenile proceedings, many nonessential proceedings will be delayed for at least 30 days. Essential hearings will proceed as scheduled, with social distancing measures enacted and enforced for court check-ins and waiting areas.
At the Juvenile Detention Center, family visitations and volunteers will not be permitted until further notice. Attorneys will be permitted to visit juvenile detainees, but they must follow sanitation and social distancing guidelines.
“Our website and the orders we will issue in specific cases will be the best, most up-to-date information regarding procedure as we move forward in these unprecedented times. The public should be assured that our actions are taken with a grave sense of responsibility to the rule of law, and in keeping with the best interests of the health of our citizenry,” Allen Superior Criminal Administrative Judge Frances C. Gull and Civil Administrative Judge Craig J. Bobay said in a statement.
Per the emergency order, the Allen County courts must provide a status update to the Indiana Supreme Court on April 10. The courts will determine then if a continuation of emergency operations is necessary.
For further details on Circuit Court operational changes, represented litigants should contact their attorneys and pro se litigants should contact the court.
For continuing updates on the status of court operations, visit www.allensuperiorcourt.us/covid19.
Indiana University has postponed its May graduation ceremony for its law students due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Dean Andrew Klein sent an email to faculty, staff and students with the announcement that the May 15 commencement will not be held. Also, classes are transitioning online for the remainder of the semester once students return from spring break March 29, and all in-person events at the Indianapolis law school have been canceled at least through the end of May.
All staff at the law school are being asked to work remotely if possible. They should remain reachable during business hours.
Klein told the “McKinney Law family” to “be patient, calm and flexible on all fronts. I remain confident that we will handle the challenges ahead and come out strong on the other side.”
Also, Indiana University announced March 10 that it would be suspending all in-person classes on all campuses from March 23 to April 5. For those two weeks following the university’s spring break, classes and coursework will continue online.
The suspension includes both IU Maurer and Robert H. McKinney schools of law. They join a growing list of law schools, including Harvard, Stanford University, Columbia University, The Ohio State University, New York University and University of California Berkley, that have cancelled in-person classes or closed completely, according to the ABA Journal.
The University of Notre Dame, including Notre Dame Law School, announced March 11 it would be canceling classes through March 20, and then begin online instruction March 23 through at least April 13.
Valparaiso University announced it will be conducting all classes online starting March 16 and plans to resume in-person classes April 13. Also, the university is limiting on-campus gatherings to no more than 100 people but is still planning to hold the law school commemoration April 24.
The American Bar Association’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar issued a memo in February giving guidance to law schools for dealing with emergencies or disasters. As to moving classes online, the ABA advised that law schools must consider not only whether the course is appropriate for being taught via the internet but also whether faculty members have the experience and training and the school has the technological capacity to deliver distance education.
“Simply moving a classroom-based course to a video conference call or to a school’s learning management system that supports other courses may be relatively easy, but … may not be an appropriate accommodation compared to, for example, adding extra days to the term when a regular schedule can be resumed,” the memo stated.
Taft Stettinius and Hollister LLP said that in the event of an office closure, its infrastructure is set up to allow lawyers and staff to work remotely. Taft chairman and managing partner Robert Hicks advised that communications with Taft will continue on as normal.
“We have protocols in place to ensure the security of confidential documents and emails,” Hicks said in a statement.
Taft has assembled a COVID-19 Task Force comprised of attorneys across its practices “to provide ongoing guidance during this uncharted and fluid situation.” Likewise, a toolkit provides legal updates, information from health care authorities and other helpful resources.
“Our attorneys and staff are also armed with resources to help them stay safe while continuing to meet client needs and exceed expectations,” according to the statement.
Ice Miller LLP also released a statement saying it is “open for business and expect(s) to remain so.
“We are implementing precautions and a business continuity plan that will allow us to maintain the uninterrupted high level of service and value you expect from us,” the statement reads. The firm’s preventative measures include migrating to phone or video conferences, limiting entrance into physical locations to essential meetings, implementing social distancing and working remotely in shifts, among other measures.
Like Taft, Ice Miller has developed a coronavirus task force and resource center “willing to jump in and answer the tough questions around this evolving situation and its impact on your business.”
Likewise, Frost Brown Todd has assembled a Coronavirus Response Team and a trending topics page to address client questions relating to such issues as supply chain issues, remote work/cybersecurity and pandemic planning, among others.
Also, Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath has asked its attorneys and staff to work remotely until at least March 31.
The law firm said that while it may be virtual, it is not “sitting still.” Despite the cautionary closure of its offices March 10, the firm “remained open for business with over 2,700 attorneys, consultants, professionals, operations and administrative staff around the globe working from the firm’s virtual network.”
“Our attorneys, consultants and professionals are just a phone call or email away, and we are embracing other technologies to stay connected in a virtual world,” co-chairs Thomas Froehle Jr. and Andrew Kassner wrote in a statement.
The firm has, however, canceled its 2020 M&A Conference in Indianapolis, according to public relations coordinator Muhamed Sulejmanagic.
A Faegre Drinker COVID-19 task force was created to help clients fully understand and assess the legal, regulatory and commercial implications of COVID-19.