On Sept. 8, Chief Justice Rhys S. Hodge signed an administrative order providing for the resumption of certain operations of the judicial branch of the Virgin Islands. The order, which goes into effect immediately, provides for a gradual resumption of court proceedings.
Non-essential proceedings will remain suspended through Sunday, Sept. 13, although advice of rights, arraignments, stalking and domestic violence and emergency family matters will continue to be heard remotely. Beginning Monday, Sept. 14, all proceedings other than jury trials, bench trials and certain substantive hearings will be heard remotely, with calendar preference given to criminal and other priority cases. In-person court proceedings will resume starting Monday, Sept. 28, with the exception of jury trials, which will resume on Nov. 1.
Even when authorized, in-person hearings will be held only if it is possible to hold the hearing while complying with social distancing protocols, federal and territorial public health regulations and the policies enacted by the Judicial Branch Administrative Office.
To ensure the safety of all judicial officers, court personnel and the public, all protocols previously adopted by the Administrator of Courts and the Presiding Judge of the Superior Court with respect to in-person hearings shall remain in effect. Such protocols include, but are not necessarily limited to, sanitation of common and high-traffic areas; erection of appropriate physical barriers and placement of social distancing tape; health screenings for those entering judicial branch facilities; implementation of federal and territorial public health guidelines; and appropriate training for judicial officers and court personnel in the proper use and implementation of such protocols.
In addition to providing for the resumption of court proceedings, the administrative order further extends most court deadlines as well as the expiration date of certain temporary restraining orders, injunctions and stays through Sept. 14, and excludes the period from Aug. 17 through Sept. 14 from certain calculations, such as the time to file a notice of appeal or to effectuate service of process.
The administrative order specifies, however, that no further automatic extensions of time shall be given, but may be given in individual cases with the approval of the presiding judicial officer. It also continues the suspension or modification of certain court rules first provided for in Administrative Order No. 2020-0010.
The judicial branch reminds its employees and the public to follow CDC guidelines in response to this pandemic and to remain vigilant in social distancing. The public is reminded that in accordance with established emergency schedules, many judicial branch employees continue to work remotely and court facilities are closed to public traffic except for official business.
Members of the public needing assistance from the judicial branch are urged to call the appropriate department using the following numbers:
St. Croix District
Court Administration 340-713-6627
Office of the Clerk of Superior Court 340-713-6626
Probation and Pre-Trial Services 340-713-6642
St. Thomas-St. John District
Court Administration 340-693-4110
Office of the Clerk of Superior Court 340-693-6403
Probation and Pre-Trial Services 340-693-6429
Office of the Clerk of Supreme Court 340-693-4100
Office of Bar Admissions 340-693-4120
Office of Disciplinary Counsel 340-693-4127
The Supreme Court continues to accept electronic filings through the Virgin Islands Judiciary Electronic Filing System (VIJEFS) in all cases, while the Superior Court shall accept electronic filings through the VIJEFS in all civil, small claims and probate matters for parties represented by attorneys and for self-represented parties who opt-in to electronic filing through the VIJEFS. For all other matters, the Superior Court shall accept filings by email in the manner authorized by Administrative Order No. 2020-0010. The Superior Court shall not accept any filings by email for matters that are subject to mandatory electronic filing unless it is a filing by a self-represented litigant who has elected not to opt-in to electronic filing through the VIJEFS.
Although parties and attorneys are strongly encouraged to file electronically whenever possible, conventional filings, where permitted, may be deposited into the drop boxes located at the exterior of the entrance at all Supreme Court and Superior Court buildings. Any payments which cannot be made online may also be made by certified check or money orders deposited into the drop boxes or mailed using the United States Postal Service. Each clerk’s office shall maintain staff schedules to ensure prompt processing of electronic and conventional filings and payments and to otherwise support remote operations.
The public is further reminded that the following email addresses should be used to submit filings to the Superior Court that are not required to be filed through the VIJEFS:
Advice of Rights and Arraignments firstname.lastname@example.org
All Other Filings email@example.com
Conventional filings continue to be accepted at all Superior Court locations and at the Supreme Court located in Crown Bay, St. Thomas.