Court Operations during the COVID-19 Outbreak: Information about Hearings, Filings and Operations

Release Date: 
Mon, 03/23/2020

 

Updated March 26, 2020
The Court has issued General Order 2020-4 to provide, on a temporary basis, that parties may appear telephonically or via videoconference at a mediation conference held under the Thomas T Glover Mediation Program

Updated March 26, 2020
Form of Pleadings and ECF instructions for Matters Scheduled Prior to June 1, 2020
 
Given the transition to telephonic hearings in most matters, there are questions as to how hearings should be noticed.
 
If a matter was originally set for a physical hearing location, and will now be conducted telephonically per Court order, there is no need to issue a new notice.
 
For non- evidentiary matters scheduled prior to June 1, 2020 that have not yet been noticed:
* Hearings should be set in ECF using the correct physical location for the assigned judge.
* The hearing information listed in the upper right-hand corner of the pleading, per LBR 9013-1(d)(1)(B), should state “telephonic” as the location
* A Notice of Motion, per LBR 9013-1(c), should state the place of hearing as “telephonic” and include the dial in information for the specific judge.
 
For trials and evidentiary hearings scheduled prior to June 1, 2020: contact the assigned judge’s chambers

 

Updated March 24, 2020

General Order Clarifies Telephonic Hearings and Signature Requirements

The Court has entered a general order adopting interim procedures to clarify the need for a physical signature under Local Bankruptcy Rule 5005-1(d)(2). General Order 2020-3 allows ECF filers to use digital software and other alternatives to demonstrate a signor's consent to a document prior to its electronic filing.

The General Order further clarifies that all scheduled non-evidentiary hearings will be heard telephonically, except as specifically directed by the individual judge.  For evidentiary hearings and trial dates scheduled to occur before June 1, 2020, chambers will determine whether each matter should be continued or conducted in court, telephonically or by video as practicable and will contact parties accordingly.

The U.S. Trustee previously announced the continuation of certain 341 meetings. Practitioners may be aware that other jurisdictions have entered general orders extending case deadlines calculated in relation to the first date set for the meeting of creditors. The Court is working with the United States Trustee to reschedule the 341 meetings that were continued, and the Judges have decided to not extend deadlines automatically at this time, including but not limited to deadlines for filing objections to discharge and dischargeability.  Parties seeking the continuance of a case deadline related to the timing of the 341 meeting should bring an appropriate motion before the Court.

 

Information for Telephonic Appearances, Per General Order 2020-3
(March 24, 2020)

Guidelines When Appearing by Phone:
Use a land line phone and not a cell phone, if possible.
Do not use a speaker phone.
Make the call from a quiet area where background noise is minimal.
Wait until the judge calls your case before speaking.
Do not put the phone on hold at any time after the call is connected.
In the event you are unable to connect to the conference call after following the above procedures, please contact chambers.

Conference Call Information for Each Chambers:

Judge Christopher Alston
Dial: 1-888-363-4749
Enter Access Code: 8955076#
Press the # sign
Enter Security Code when prompted: 3564#
Speak your name when prompted

Judge Marc Barreca
Dial: 1-888-363-4749
Enter Access Code: 9365479#
Press the # sign
Enter Security Code when prompted: 8574#
Speak your name when prompted

Judge Timothy Dore
Dial: 1-888-363-4749
Enter Access Code: 2762430#
Press the # sign
Enter Security Code when prompted: 5334#
Speak your name when prompted

Judge Mary Jo Heston
Dial: 1-888-363-4749
Enter Access Code: 5635947#
Press the # sign
Enter Security Code when prompted: 3887#
Speak your name when prompted

Judge Brian Lynch
Dial: 1-888-363-4749
Access code: 5974828#
To join the call: Press # sign again
Security code: 8109#
Name: Speak your name when prompted

 

Updated March 20, 2020

AMENDED NOTICE FROM THE OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES TRUSTEE AS TO CONTINUED MEETINGS OF CREDITORS

 

Updated March 19, 2020, 12:30pm
Calls to the Clerk’s Office

The Clerk’s office is experiencing technical issues that result in a limited ability to answer phones and online Chat. We are working to resolve these national and local issues and thank you in advance for your patience.

Update March 18, 2020

Judges Heston and Lynch to hold Telephonic Hearings, March 24, 25, and 31
 
Judge Lynch has announced that his March 31 calendar in Vancouver will be held telephonically. In addition, Judge Lynch’s March 25 calendar in Tacoma will be held telephonically. Guidance and instructions are listed below.
 
Judge Heston has announced that her March 24 calendar in Tacoma will be held telephonically. Guidance and instructions for telephonic appearance are listed below.
 
For use during the COVID-19 related court closure only:
 
JUDGE HESTON
 
(1) Dial: 1-888-363-4749
(2) Enter Access Code: 5635947#
(3) Press the # sign
(4) Enter Security Code when prompted: 3887#
(5) Speak your name when prompted
 
JUDGE LYNCH
 
(1) Dial: 1-888-363-4749
(2) Enter Access Code: 5974828#
(3) Press the # sign
(4) Enter Security Code when prompted: 8109#
(5) Speak your name when prompted
 
 
Guidelines
(1) Use a land line phone and not a cell phone, if possible.
(2) Do not use a speaker phone.
(3) Make the call from a quiet area where background noise is minimal.
(4) Wait until the judge calls your case before speaking.
(5) Please clearly state your name each time you speak
(6) Do not put the phone on hold at any time after the call is connected

 

Updated March 17, 2020 2:30 pm

General Order Limiting Entry To Courthouse

On March 17, in furtherance of efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19, the District Court entered a General Order closing the courthouses in Seattle and Tacoma to the general public. The Bankruptcy Court will continue with scheduled non-evidentiary hearings to be held telephonically. Information about hearings and judges procedures can be found on the Court's website: www.wawb.uscourts.gov.  Evidentiary hearings and trial dates scheduled to occur before June 1, 2020 will not be conducted in person at the courthouse. Individual judges retain the discretion to conduct those hearings by means of telephonic/video conferencing as appropriate.

The Clerk's office will no longer provide face to face services.  A drop box has been established in the lobby of the Seattle and the Tacoma courthouse where pleadings and documents will be accepted. Documents and payments can also be mailed to the Clerk's office. Clerk's office staff can be reached by phone or on-line CHAT to answer procedural questions.

 

Updated: March 16, 2020 3:00 pm

Clerk's Offices Offering Limited Services

The courthouses in Seattle and Tacoma, and the bankruptcy clerk's offices remain open to the public.  However, in keeping with local and national recommendations to help limit the spread of COVID-19, the Clerk's offices in Seattle and Tacoma are providing limited services at their intake counters:

  • No person to person assistance is available;
  • Cash is not accepted; customers are encouraged to present a money order or certified funds. Personal checks are not accepted for filing fee payments. Please include the case number and debtor's name on all forms of payment. Payments can also be sent to the Court by mail. 
  • Customers who enter the clerk's office lobby are encouraged to contact staff via personal cell phone, email, or online chat service on our website. In Seattle, there is a public phone available outside the lobby doors. Filing and procedural questions can be answered in real time before the customer leaves the lobby.
  • A drop box has been placed at the front counter for filings and payments.
  • A variety of critical forms are available to the public in our lobby

Payments and documents can be sent to the Clerk's office by mail to the addresses located below:

For Seattle Cases:
U.S. Bankruptcy Court
700 Stewart Street, #6301
Seattle, WA 98101
(206) 370-5200

For Tacoma Cases:
Tacoma Union Station
1717 Pacific Avenue, #2100
Tacoma WA 98402-3233
(253) 882-3900

Additional resources can be found on this website, including how to find case information, accessing electronic court records through PACER, filing without an attorney, and information about local bankruptcy forms and national bankruptcy forms
 

 

Updated: March 16, 2020

Judge Barreca's calendars for March 19 (Seattle), April 1 (Everett) and April 2 (Seattle) will be telephonic only. Instructions and guidelines for telephonic appearances are as follows:

Instructions
(1) Dial: 1-888-363-4749
(2) Enter Access Code: 9365479#
(3) Press the # sign
(4) Enter Security Code when prompted: 8574#
(5) Speak your name when prompted

Guidelines
(1) Use a land line phone and not a cell phone, if possible. Do not use a speaker phone.
(2) Make the call from a quiet area where background noise is minimal.
(3) Wait until the judge calls your case before speaking.
(4) Do not put the phone on hold at any time after the call is connected.

 

Updated: March 16, 2020

The United States Trustee has announced the following:

All in-person chapter 7,12, and 13 section 341 meetings scheduled through April 10, 2020, are hereby continued until a later date to be determined. Absent special circumstances, 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.

Meetings already noticed as telephonic meetings may proceed as scheduled.

Contact your case trustee with additional questions.

Updated March 6, 2020

Bankruptcy Court Hearing Information: Reducing Exposure to COVID-19

Seattle and King County Public Health recommend that people at higher risk of severe illness should limit their risk of exposure to COVID-19. https://www.kingcounty.gov/depts/health/news/2020/March/5-slowing-the-im...(link is external) If you fall within a higher risk category, or are otherwise uncomfortable appearing in person for a non-evidentiary hearing before the bankruptcy court, please contact the chambers of the assigned judge to request permission to appear telephonically. Each judge has procedures for telephonic attendance listed under their chamber's procedures page of the Court website: http://www.wawb.uscourts.gov/chambers-information

Trials and evidentiary hearings scheduled for the month of March are being reviewed by the judges. If there is a need to reschedule these events, you will be contacted by the court. As with the hearings, if you are within a higher risk category, or are uncomfortable appearing in person for a scheduled trial or evidentiary hearing, contact chambers in advance of the scheduled date.

The courthouses in Seattle and Tacoma remain open. Courthouse events, training, and other gatherings of 10 or more people are postponed for the month of March.

Information Regarding Specific Hearing Calendars:

Judge Barreca's March 11 Everett calendar will be conducted telephonically ONLY; advance permission is not required.  Judge Barreca has published instructions and guidelines for telephonic appearances.

Judge Alston's March 18 Port Orchard calendar will be conducted telephonically ONLY; advance permission is not required. Judge Alston has published instructions and guidelines for telephonic appearances.