UPDATE: JUDGE TOOR’S MARCH 12 MESSAGE
From: Judge Toor
To: Chittenden County Bar
I want to keep you all informed with regard to how the courts are addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. The Supreme Court has created a task force that is working daily on the issue and is in direct contact with the Executive Branch and particularly the Department of Health. We are currently having all-judge daily telephone conferences with the Supreme Court. This is a fast-moving issue and things are changing daily. The Court has been updating statements on the court website daily, which I urge you to read, and is considering various options as to state-wide steps to address the issue.
We do NOT want anyone coming to court if they have any reason to believe they may be ill or should be in self-quarantine due to travel or exposure to others who have tested positive. Posters will be going up at the courthouse to that effect soon. We expect the website will soon reflect that requests for continuances due to health concerns may be made by email to avoid people coming to court to deliver paper requests. As you know, I will not require a request in advance for phone appearances when someone is potentially ill if the matter is not one at which evidence will be taken. We are all planning to be very liberal with requests to appear by phone or continue matters where parties are concerned about risks to their health in coming to court, whether due to their age, underlying medical conditions, or other concerns. We are discussing other ways to reduce court events that bring large numbers of people together in the various dockets, without bringing the court system to a grinding halt. I’m sure you know that some courts in other jurisdictions have already cancelled jury draws, jury trials and other court events.
Currently, the trial courts have discretion with respect to such things as jury trials and draws until the Supreme Court decides otherwise. I have decided today to move our next jury draw from April 9 to May 7 (and will discuss that with the lawyers in those cases at the pretrials that are currently scheduled), and will revisit whether that can go forward as we see how the illness progresses in the community. I plan to contact the lawyers who already have a jury selected for a trial later this month to discuss whether we should proceed as scheduled. I welcome any thoughts from any of you as to how you think this court, and the courts statewide, should be proceeding. Feel free to email me directly with suggestions or comments—as long as they do not relate to a particular case—at email@example.com. Please practice social distancing and do all you can to stay healthy.
Judge Toor just sent the following message:
To Chittenden County Bar:
I am instituting a temporary standing order that any lawyer (or client) with cold symptoms (coughing or sneezing, and obviously any high temperature) may appear by phone in my courtroom without advance permission for any hearing that does not involve taking evidence. Please call in five minutes early as the Call Center can cause delay in getting you to the courtroom phone.
Thank you Dave Gurtman for forwarding the message.