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

Release Date: 
Sun, 01/02/2022

Updated January 2, 2022

  • Modification to In-Person Services and Hearings Effective January 3, 2022

Given a recent surge in COVID-19 infections, the bankruptcy clerk's offices in Seattle and Tacoma are not providing in-person services at their intake counters at this time. Clerk's office staff continue to be available during business hours by phone, ECF help email and online chat. Unrepresented parties may file paper pleadings using the drop boxes located in the lobby of each courthouse. Parties are encouraged to make online payments, or send a money order or certified funds to the Clerk's office by mail. The courthouses are open to the public only for attending court proceedings.

In-person hearings, trials and evidentiary matters are suspended through February 7, 2022. Matters will be conducted telephonically or by Zoom, unless good cause is demonstrated to proceed in person.  Chambers will contact parties with previously scheduled matters. See District Court General Order 16-21.

  • Face Coverings Required in Courthouses - effective August 16, 2021

The District Court has entered General Order 11-21, requiring masks for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, in all public and common areas of the courthouses effective August 16, 2021. In courtrooms, all individuals must wear a face mask unless directed to remove their mask by the assigned judge. Individuals who are participating in Court proceedings will be advised to remove their mask to speak. Witnesses will be asked to remove their mask while they are on the witness stand. Social distancing is to be observed. For more information and specific courtroom protocols, visit the procedures page for your assigned bankruptcy judge.

  • U.S. TRUSTEE PROGRAM EXTENDS TELEPHONIC OR VIDEO SECTION 341 MEETINGS

The U.S. Trustee Program has extended the requirement that section 341 meetings be conducted by telephone or video appearance to all cases filed during the period of the President's "Proclamation on Declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Outbreak" issued March 13, 2020, and ending on the date that is 60 days after such declaration terminates. However, the U.S. Trustee may approve a request by a trustee in a particular case to continue the section 341 meeting to an in-person meeting in a manner that complies with local public health guidance, if the U.S. Trustee determines that an in-person examination of the debtor is required to ensure the completeness of the meeting or the protection of estate property.This policy may be revised at the discretion of the Director of the United States Trustee Program.
 

  • Temporary Electronic Filing Option for Parties Without an Attorney

Given the limited access to the courthouses and other filing challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the court has made available the following temporary electronic filing option for parties without an attorney (debtors and creditors). Such parties may use this service to submit documents for filing with the court. In most instances, documents will be processed within 24 hours or by the next business day. New case filings may not receive a case number until the next business day. If this is an emergency case filing or time sensitive documents needed for a hearing, please call the court at 206-370-5200(Seattle) or 253-882-3900 (Tacoma) during regular business hours.
 

  • ECF Event for Notice of Mortgage Forbearance

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”),  includes provisions that allow borrowers experiencing a financial hardship directly or indirectly due to the COVID-19 emergency to request a forbearance on their mortgages. Accordingly, a new event has been created in CM/ECF, entitled Notice of Mortgage Forbearance. The new event is located under Bankruptcy Events → Claim Actions.  In addition to the new Mortgage Forbearance Events, changes have been made to the events Notice of Mortgage Payment Change (No Proof of Claim Filed) and Notice of Mortgage Payment Change.  These last two events have been modified to include internal logic to ensure that forbearance notices are filed correctly. These three new or modified events will be live in ECF on Monday, May 11. Those filers who have been using generic events to docket forbearance notices are asked to use the appropriate new event.

  •  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.