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    Cuyahoga County courts and others adopt new business continuity procedures

    According to the Ohio Department of Health, Cuyahoga County has been the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in Ohio, with 24 of the 50 confirmed Ohio cases as of March 16, 2020. In response, the judges of the Court of Common Pleas in Cuyahoga County declared a "judicial emergency" to be in effect until “the response to the COVID-19 local health crisis has resulted in the control of the spread of the disease." To address this open-ended judicial emergency, the court established sweeping new procedures to protect public health, maintain the functions of the court and protect the rights of individuals subject to the authority of the court.

    A copy of the order is attached here. Among the new procedures, the court ordered that:

    • Criminal and civil jury trials are suspended for 30 days unless the speedy trial waiver is required and has not been obtained.
    • All in-person civil proceedings, except emergency actions, are suspended for 30 days.
    • All foreclosure cases are stayed for 60 days and all sheriff and PSO sales are suspended for 60 days. All sales currently scheduled through May 11, 2020, are canceled and orders of sale are to be returned without exception.
    • The Clerk of Courts will operate with essential personnel only.
    • Suspensions may be further extended so long as the public health crisis continues.

    Other county courts in Ohio have announced similar delays or continuances of in-person hearings and/or trials as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic. In Franklin County, the Court of Common Pleas has continued all jury trials, hearings or dispositions scheduled through April 10, 2020. The judges and staff will conduct pretrial conferences by telephone and could make exceptions to the general continuance order at the discretion of each judge.

    In Hamilton County, the Court of Common Pleas similarly suspended all jury trials and continued most other matters for a minimum of 30 days. Importantly, in Hamilton County, the courts appear to continue to schedule hearings on motions for temporary restraining orders.

    Based on these continuance orders, lenders and landlords need to be aware that certain remedies may not be available until normal operations resume. Foreclosure cases in Cuyahoga County will be on hold until governmental containment strategies begin to make progress. In addition, across the state, hearings on garnishment proceedings, eviction proceedings, receivership cases, motions for temporary restraining orders or other extraordinary relief may be delayed or continued. Be sure to consider such delays when evaluating workout strategies and default remedies. 

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