Vermont State and Federal Courts COVID-19 Response
Vermont State Courts:
[Update April 27, 2020] - Vermont state courts are operating under a judicial emergency until at least May 31, 2020. During the judicial emergency, most nonemergency hearings, jury draws, and jury trials are postponed. For hearings that are not postponed, the State of Vermont has authorized many of them to take place remotely. For individuals who do need to enter Vermont Judiciary buildings, the State of Vermont requires that they wear cloth masks.
Additional information regarding Vermont state courts’ operation during the COVID-19 Pandemic can be found at:
Vermont Supreme Court and Vermont Superior Court
On March 16, 2020, the Vermont Supreme Court declared a Judicial Emergency due to the outbreak of COVID-19. The Emergency will extend until April 15, 2020, unless further extended by order of the Court.
The following is a list of all Vermont Supreme Court and Vermont Superior Court operations affected by the Judicial Emergency.
- All nonemergency Superior Court hearings, whether evidentiary or non-evidentiary, will be postponed.
- Certain high-priority cases will still be heard by the Superior Court, which are:
a. Vermont Rule of Criminal Procedure 5 hearings and arraignments of defendants in custody to be held by video where available;
b. Arraignments for individuals cited for charges of domestic assault;
c. Change-of-plea hearings in the discretion of the judge;
d. Motions for review of bail for defendants in custody;
e. Requests for search warrants when electronic means are not available;
f. Criminal competency when the initial evaluation supports a finding of incompetence and related hospitalization hearings;
g. Juvenile temporary care hearings;
h. Emergency motions to suspend parent-child contact in juvenile cases;
i. Emergency motions to suspend parent-child contact in domestic cases;
j. Mental-health hearings considering involuntary hospitalization and/or involuntary medication;
k. Probate hearings concerning emergency guardianship or Do Not Resuscitate petitions;
l. Habeas Corpus petitions;
m. Final hearings in stalking and relief from abuse proceedings, and hearings seeking a final order after denial of an ex parte request;
n. Temporary emergency hearings on injunctive relief at the discretion of the judge;
o. Emergency landlord-tenant hearings in the discretion of the judge;
p. Proceedings directly related to the COVID-19 public health emergency; and
q. Any other matter where the Chief Superior Judge concludes that the interests of justice require that the matter be heard during the course of this suspension.
i. A party seeking an exception must file a motion in the court in which the case is pending, and any party who objects must file its written opposition within three days after the motion is filed. The court will refer the motion to the Chief Superior Judge for resolution.
3. For non-evidentiary proceedings that do go forward because they are high-priority cases, parties and counsel may participate remotely by telephone without seeking permission by motion. Where feasible, parties may participate by video appearance as approved by the judge. Parties or counsel must make advance arrangements to appear by video.
4. Appearance by telephone or video for evidentiary hearings will continue to be governed by existing rules.
5. Court Filings:
a. In Superior Court divisions (Rutland and Windham) and units where either the 2010 Vermont Rules for Electronic Filing or the 2020 Vermont Rules for Electronic Filing apply (eCabinet or Odyssey File and Serve), those rules must be followed.
b. In Superior Court divisions and units where there is no electronic filing or for litigants that are not required to electronically file, parties may file documents with the court using email, subject to the following requirements:
i. Filings must be sent as an attachment to the email account for the unit where the filing will be made.
ii. The subject line must indicate the division where it is being filed and the case docket number.
iii. Further details concerning the method of filing by email will be posted on the vermontjudiciary.org website, and may change from time to time.
iv. Parties and lawyers should check the guidance on the website before filing by email.
c. In the Supreme Court, parties may file motions and other documents other than briefs by email.
i. Filings must be sent as an attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org and the subject line should contain the Supreme Court docket number. Paper copies of appellate briefs and printed cases are still required as directed by the Vermont Rules for Appellate Procedure.
d. The rules regarding service of filed documents in the Superior Court and the Supreme Court remain in effect and are unaffected by this Order.
e. Filings sent by email will be considered filed on that date if the email is received before 4:30 p.m.
6. Courthouse entry is prohibited, except to attend hearings that are not suspended or to access other state agencies in the building and only if they pass screening questions related to the COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic.
Also, on March 18, 2020, the Vermont Supreme Court declared that:
- Hearings for nonemergency matters, although generally suspended, may proceed if the parties participate remotely and are not in the courthouse. Such hearings are subject to the discretion of the Superior Judge and the Court Administrator.
- The Supreme Court may hold oral arguments for summary or full-Court proceedings by telephone or consider the case without oral argument in its discretion.
Vermont Federal Courts:
United States District Court for the District of Vermont
[Update April 27, 2020] - The United States Courts for the District of Vermont are currently operating under a continuity of operations plan in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The federal courthouse in Burlington is open for hearings, but is operating with limited staff and resources. The District Court Clerk’s Offices are closed to the public. Although certain criminal hearings are still taking place at the courthouse, other criminal hearings are occurring by video or telephone conference based on a case-by-case assessment of the presiding judge. Individual judges are also authorized to conduct civil and bankruptcy hearings by telephone. Jury trials have been postponed.
Additional information regarding the United States Courts for the District of Vermont’s operation during the COVID-19 Pandemic can be found at:
- All civil and criminal matters scheduled for in-court appearance before any district or magistrate judge or bankruptcy judge in the District of Vermont are postponed pending further order of the court. This includes all jury trials.
- Each judge retains authority over his or her docket and is authorized to make exceptions for emergency hearings. All judges remain available for case-related contact by electronic filing as well as by telephone and mail through chambers as well as through the clerk's office. Questions concerning filing deadlines should be directed to the assigned judge.
- All grand jury proceedings are postponed until April 23, 2020. Compliance with subpoenas where appropriate may be accomplished by electronic means. Further postponement will be ordered as necessary.
- With regard to criminal cases, the time period of the postponements will be excluded under the Speedy Trial Act, as the court specifically finds that the ends of justice served by ordering the postponements outweigh the best interest of the public and any defendant's right to a speedy trial, pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §3161(h)(7)(A). The 30-day period for indictment pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §3161(b) is also subject to this exclusion.
- Case-by-case exceptions to the postponements may be ordered for non-jury matters at the discretion of the court after consultation with counsel.
- Criminal matters before a magistrate judge (or a district judge hearing such a matter for reasons of schedule and convenience) such as initial appearances, arraignments, detention hearings (and appeals to district judges from detention orders), and the issuance of search warrants, shall continue to take place in the ordinary course.
- The work of the U.S. Probation Office will continue under protocols established by that office. The judges will remain available for the issuance of arrest warrants as needed for potential violations with a subsequent appearance before a judge.
- The work of the bankruptcy court will continue subject to protocols established by the bankruptcy judge.
- Civil or criminal motions that can be resolved without oral argument or handled by telephone conference call will not be affected.
- The clerk's office shall remain open and will be covered by a reduced staff. The phone will be answered and staff will be able to accept civil and criminal filings which are not filed electronically. The electronic filing system will be maintained in the usual course and will remain available for normal court business.
United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Vermont
- Scheduled Hearings and Conferences. All scheduled hearings and conferences will be conducted telephonically pending further order of the Court. Any party who wishes to appear in person at a scheduled hearing or conference may file a motion either to appear in person on the scheduled date, or to continue the hearing to a date when in-person appearances are likely to be reinstated, on notice to all affected parties and specifying the legal and factual basis for that request.
- Evidentiary Hearings and Trials. Evidentiary hearings and trials will be rescheduled unless there are time-sensitive issues which must be addressed immediately. The Court will determine which trials and evidentiary hearings need to be rescheduled, on a case-by-case basis, based on the current record. The courtroom deputy will then contact the attorneys and pro se parties involved to set a mutually acceptable new date for the trial or hearing.
- Regular Operations. The Bankruptcy Court remains open for all other business. Staff in the Clerk's Office will continue to receive and process mail, accept filings, enter filings on the dockets, be present at the intake desk (in Burlington only), and be available by telephone. Electronic filings may still be made through the CM/ECF system. The public is encouraged to continue utilizing Court services while following all applicable public health guidelines.
- 341 Meetings (Applicable to Districts of Vermont, Connecticut and New York). Effective immediately, all in-person chapter 7, 12, and 13 section 341 meetings scheduled through April 10, 2020, are continued until a later date to be determined. Section 341 meetings may not proceed during this period except through telephonic or other alternative means not requiring personal appearance by debtors. Appropriate notice will be provided to parties in accordance with bankruptcy law and rules for any telephonic meetings scheduled during this period. Meetings already scheduled as telephonic meetings may proceed as scheduled.