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Recapping where we are with COVID-19

Governor John Bel Edwards says that, early next week, he will announce the first phase of the state’s reopening. In anticipation of that announcement, I thought I’d recap our current situation with legal deadlines in the Louisiana Supreme Court and the courts of appeal. Why? Because, depending on the court, many filings that would have been due in March or April may need to be filed by Friday, May 1, or Monday, May 4.

In La. Proclamation No. 30 JBE 2020 (Mar. 16, 2020), the governor suspended “legal deadlines, including liberative prescription and peremptive periods applicable to legal proceedings in all courts” until at least April 13. The same suspension applied to “all other deadlines in legal proceedings in all courts ....” This proclamation directed the courts to “implement and interpret the provisions of this Order.” The suspension became effective at midnight on March 17, 2020. In La. Proclamation No. 41 JBE 2020 (Apr. 2, 2020), the governor extended these deadlines suspensions “until at least Monday, April 30, 2020.”

The word suspended may be important. Of course, I don’t claim any authority to interpret the governor’s order. With that caveat, I’m reminded of the Civil Code’s distinction between suspension and interruption of prescription. When prescription is interrupted, “the time that has run is not counted”; instead, prescription begins “to run anew from the last day of interruption.” La. Civ. Code art. 3466. In contrast, when prescription is suspended, “the period of suspension is not counted toward accrual of prescription,” and “[p]rescription commences to run again” when the suspension period ends. La. Civ. Code art. 3472. In other words, suspension merely stops the clock; it doesn’t reset the clock. I don’t know whether courts will refer to these Civil Code articles when interpreting suspended in the governor’s order, but it may be prudent to take the conservative approach and assume that the governor’s order merely stopped the clocks, as opposed to resetting them to zero, and that any legal delays will resume when 41 JBE 2020 ends.

Against that backdrop, the Louisiana Supreme Court has issued several orders implementing the governor’s orders. Most important to lawyers practicing in the Louisiana Supreme Court is the Court’s April 6, 2020 order suspending its own deadlines. Under this order, any filings due between March 12, 2002 through May 1, 2020 will be deemed timely if filed no later than Monday, May 4, 2020. 

Following the Louisiana Supreme Court’s lead, all five courts of appeal have issued their own orders adopting the same suspension of deadlines, with a few tweaks to the date filings are due once the suspension is lifted. Here are links to those orders:

Some of these deadlines may change, depending on the governor’s actions and the courts’ responses within the next few days. But as things stand now, a lot of stuff that’s been on hold during the COVID-19 emergency is going to be due next Friday or the following Monday.

p.s. One more wrinkle: In New Orleans, home of the Louisiana Supreme Court and Louisiana Fourth Circuit, the mayor has extended the stay-home order through May 15. While that order doesn’t address deadlines, it may affect the LASC’s and Fourth Circuit’s operations. To download a copy of that order, follow this link.

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