Supreme Court expands trial court tolling amid COVID-19 backlog

The Indiana Supreme Court is taking steps to help trial courts handle the coming backlog of cases, extending certain emergency operations due to the COVID-19 public health emergency through as late as January 2021.

The justices on Friday handed down an order to assist trial judges as they begin resuming operations after largely shutting down in-person proceedings due to COVID-19.

Previous orders from the high court have allowed for remote administration of oaths and other remote functions, modified procedures for witnessing wills,  and even protection stimulus checks of CARES Act from creditors.  Most recently, trial courts have been instructed to submit their transition plans to the high court for approval of expanded in-person operations. 

“The Court finds that although Indiana trial courts are beginning to expand operations as public-health conditions permit, the courts will face a backlog of cases,” the Friday order reads. “Prioritizing those cases will require trial courts to have continued authority to toll some cases while advancing others for hearing or trial.”

To that end, the Supreme Court authorized five steps to assist trial courts in the reopening process.

First, “all laws, rules, and procedures setting time limits for speedy trials in criminal and juvenile proceedings; public health and mental health matters; all judgments, supports, and other orders; and … all civil and criminal matters before Indiana trial courts” may be tolled through Aug. 14. Interest will not be due or charged during the tolled period.

Second, for Indiana Criminal Rules 4(A) and (C), and for early-trial demands filed under Rule 4(B) before April 3, the tolled period will be calculated from April 3 through Aug. 14. That period “shall be further subject to congestion of the court calendar or locally existing emergency conditions for good cause shown.”

For Rule 4(B) early-trial motions filed after April 2 and before Aug. 15, the motions will be deemed filed on Aug. 14. Those motions are likewise subject to court congestion and local emergency conditions.

Fourth, the prohibition on writs of attachment, civil bench warrants or body attachments under Trial Rule 64 will expire at 12:01 a.m. Aug. 15, unless the prohibition is extended by another order of the Supreme Court.

Finally, unless further extended by the court, the orders regarding attachment and garnishment of stimulus funds, remote administration of oaths; modified procedures for witnessing wills; and expanded use of remote proceedings will expire at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 1, 2021.

The order is “Order Extending Trial Courts’ Emergency Tolling Authority and Setting Expiration of Other Emergency Orders,” 20S-CB-123.

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