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NH Supreme Court Issues Order Restricting Public Access to Circuit Court and Suspending In-Person Proceedings- by Jay Jarosz

Following up on our July 10 blog post by Solal Wanstok, a new order has been issued by the Supreme Court, extending the suspension of in-person proceedings implemented by the previous order.  As of July 28, 2020, and through August 17, 2020 and/or the last day a Declared State of Emergency, the Circuit Court will remain open on a restricted basis in an effort to minimize risks associated with COVID-19.  During this period, courts will not be open to the general public and all in-person proceedings will remain suspended.  As stated in the previous order, the only individuals allowed inside courthouses are:

  • parties in a landlord/tenant case who are required to file documents or make rental payments
  • parties who are scheduled for in-person proceedings
  • individuals filing for emergency relief

Members of the public will not have access to view files or make copies at the courthouses, but may request copies of documents.  For more information on document requests, please visit the NHJB website.

Some proceedings are exempt from the suspension of in-person court proceedings, including cases involving protective orders, child support, emergency mental health orders, petitions for guardianship, the constitutional rights of criminal defendants, or any other exemptions approved by the Senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.  Criminal matters or adjudicatory hearings in Delinquency/CHINS matters will continue to be scheduled in-person as necessary, unless the defendant/juvenile waives an in-person proceeding.  Any in-person proceedings will be limited to attorneys, parties, witnesses, security officers, and other necessary persons determined by the trial judge. All proceedings will follow requirements established by the Administrative Judges and the Superior Court Chief Justice.

The order reiterates the procedure to be followed by tenants and landlords in non-payment actions, as mentioned in our previous blog post. With the exception of deadlines for scheduled hearings, all deadlines set forth in court or administrative rules and orders, statutes, and ordinances are no longer extended and fully in effect.

Despite these exceptions, the order urges courts to utilize available technology to limit in-person contact and avoid the risks of COVID-19.  The circuit court may accept electronic signatures on pleadings, and situationally accept emailed filings for hearings scheduled pursuant to this order. However, any emailed filing or exhibit must also be sent to the court via U.S. mail to be docketed in the court record. 

Similar orders have been issued restricting access to the Superior Court and Supreme Court.

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