The impact of the COVID-19 Coronavirus on the legal system is similar to most everything else – business not as usual. In the First Circuit (encompassing all of Oahu), the vast majority of hearings between now and April 30, 2020 have been postponed, to be rescheduled to dates after April 30th. Similarly, by order of the Chief Justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court, most deadlines, time schedules, and filing requirements in Circuit, District, and Family Courts between March 23, 2020-April 3, 2020, are extended to April 6, 2020, with the additional provision that his order “may be modified or extended as necessary.” Further, the Chief Justice has directed that all Judiciary facilities, including the courthouses shall be closed to persons not having official court business, from March 23, 2020-April 30, 2020. Specifically, only persons participating in hearings, filing documents that cannot be filed online, or those requesting to watch a specific public proceeding are allowed into the Judiciary buildings.
Now, the above does not mean that all legal processes in the Courts have stopped. In the Family Court, hearings continue to be held for:
- temporary restraining orders (TROs);
- juvenile hearings at the Juvenile Correction Facility or Home Maluhia shelter;
- civil commitment hearings at the Queen’s Medical Center or the Hawaii State Hospital;
- emergency guardianships; and
- Child Welfare Service cases – but only for initial petition-type hearings were a child was recently removed by the State and placed into temporary foster custody.
Further, parties and attorneys can continue to file documents, as the filing windows at the Family Court remain open.
The memos and orders regarding the business of the Courts are primarily posted on the Judiciary’s COVID-19 information page, a great resource for those looking for status of proceedings in probate, criminal, civil, Land & Tax Appeals Court, public/private foreclosure sales, as well as the wide variety of cases in the District Courts. Additionally, the Judiciary’s site has information on the proceedings and deadlines in the 2nd Circuit (Maui/Molokai/Lanai), 3rd Circuit (Hawaii Island), and 5th Circuit (Kauai).
If you have an upcoming hearing or filing deadline, it is critical to confirm with the courts that your requirements are extended or postponed, so that you are not defaulted or penalized.