COVID-19 La.5 Cir.

La. 5th Circuit extends deadlines to June 19

In response to the governor’s order 75 JBE 2020, The Louisiana Fifth Circuit issued an order today extending its deadlines. Under today’s order, filings that otherwise would have been due between March 12 and June 15, 2020 are now due on June 19. To download a copy of today’s order by the Louisiana Fifth Circuit, follow this link.

Be wary, though, about what law establishes your deadline. In a prior letter, Chief Judge Chehardy cautioned that her court can only extend deadlines set by court rules, and that the court does not have power to extend statutory deadlines. My take is that the governor’s order applies to deadlines set by statutes, and the court’s order applies to deadlines set by court rules.

Where does that leave deadlines to file applications for supervisory writs? I’m not sure. My suggestion would be to play it safe and either file by whatever valid return date you have or file a timely motion to extend the return date. 

Direct link to La. 5th Circuit’s e-conference page

As readers of this blog know, the Louisiana Fifth Circuit held its May 2020 oral arguments by video conference, using the Zoom platform. The court’s web site has a page with general information for those wishing to attend a Zoom oral argument, but it’s hard to find (I couldn’t find a link to it from the home page). Not to worry, though; here’s a direct link to the court’s e-conference web page.

La. 5th Circuit guidelines for Phase 1 re-opening

Recently, the Louisiana Fifth Circuit issued a letter to attorneys and the general public about the court’s operations beginning May 18. This letter covers some of the same ground as the court’s letter to the LSBA president last week. These include the court’s handling of deadlines, access to the courthouse, social-distancing and other protective measures inside the courthouse, available alternatives for filing (including e-filing and fax-filing), and oral arguments during the next 90 days. To read or download the letter, follow this link.

The court has also recently issued a re-opening notice, spelling out the protocol for entry into the courthouse. To read or download this notice, follow this link.

La. 5th Circuit order extending deadlines

Here’s a link to an order issued today by the Louisiana Fifth Circuit following Governor Edwards’s executive orders issued yesterday. The order confirms that the courthouse will reopen to the public at 8:30 a.m. this Monday. Implementing the governor’s suspension of legal deadlines, the order decrees that any filings that would have been due between March 12 and June 5, 2020 will be deemed timely if filed by June 8.

For additional information about the La. Fifth Circuit’s operations for the next few weeks, read the court’s letter to the LSBA president, described in this recent post.

La. 5th Circuit guidelines for practice and courthouse entry

In a letter to the La. State Bar Association president, the Louisiana Fifth Circuit has provided information about its implementation of Governor Edwards’s orders issued yesterday, 58 JBE 2020 and 59 JBE 2020. You can download a copy of the letter by following this link. Here are some of the letter’s highlights:

  • The Fifth Circuit courthouse is scheduled to reopen on Monday, May 18, at 8:30 a.m. But anyone entering the building will be required to wear a facemask, answer some health questions, and possibly have their temperature taken. One inside, everyone will have to follow social-distancing guidelines, which are described in the letter.
  • The court intends to allow some leeway in filings once the governor’s suspension of legal deadlines has ended (the current suspension runs through Friday, June 5). Anticipating a rush of filings on Monday, June 8, the court “intend[s] for the period of time from June 8th through June 26 to act as a ‘bridge’, and that rigid adherence will not be expected or required by anyone who should have filed during the period of suspension to get things into court on that first available date, which would be Monday June 8th.” But the court cautions that this leeway applies “only to filings being submitted according to the Local Rules of the 5th Circuit. We do not have authority to extend statutory deadlines, so please, when filing writs or notices of appeal, you must continue to adhere to the codal provisions and deadlines that apply to those types of filings.”
  • The court will continue encouraging remote filings by waiving the $50 convenience fee for e-filing through June 26 and continuing to accept fax filings through the end of June. Parties may also file by mail.

This is just a quick summary of parts of the court’s letter. If you practice in the Louisiana Fifth Circuit, you should read the entire letter.

La. 5th Circuit’s first round of oral arguments by video conference a success

In a May 9 press release, the Louisiana Fifth Circuit has announced the success of its first round of oral arguments by video conference last week. According to Chief Judge Susan Chehardy, video conferencing may be here to stay. 

While this success bolsters confidence in the Court’s ability to maintain operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, Chief Judge Susan Chehardy took a broader view, observing that the success of this technology “may be precipitating a sea change in court accessibility, not just in Louisiana, but nationwide.” She added that along with the Fifth Circuit’s eFiling and Case Management Systems,“this new technology is another valuable tool that helps support the Court’s commitment to providing fair, timely, and accessible justice.”

To read the entire press release (one page), follow this link.

La. 5th Circuit extends court closure and deadlines through May 15

Today the Louisiana Fifth Circuit issued an order extending its closure period and its deadlines through May 15, 2020. Under today’s order, filings otherwise due between March 12 and May 15, 2020 will be deemed timely if filed by May 18, 2020. To read the court’s notice of today’s order, follow this link. To read the order itself, follow this link.

How to attend oral argument remotely at the La. 5th Circuit

The Louisiana Fifth Circuit has announced that it will hold oral arguments on May 5, 6, and 7 remotely using the Zoom platform. The court has also posted instructions for those wishing to attend an oral argument being held by video conference. To read the announcement, follow this link. To read the instructions for participating, follow this link.

p.s. For a copy of the Fifth Circuit’s “Zoom Docket” for May 5, 6, and 7, follow this link.

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.

La. 5th Circuit’s dry run of oral argument by videoconference

The Louisiana Fifth Circuit has recently issued two press releases, dated April 10 and April 13, reporting on the court’s preparations for conducting appellate oral arguments by videoconference. The April 10 press release announced the court’s plan to test its videoconferencing technology through a mock oral argument with law students rehearsing for a moot-court competition. The April 13 press release announced the test’s success and the court’s plan to use the technology for appellate oral arguments scheduled for May 5, 6, and 7.

To read the April 13 press release, follow this link. To read the April 10 press release, follow this link.