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

Release Date: 
Fri, 10/09/2020

 

Updated October 9, 2020

At the discretion of the individual judge, the Bankruptcy Court may begin to hold a limited number of in-person trials and evidentiary hearings. For the benefit of all participants, the Court has adopted certain health and safety protocols that will apply to all in-person proceedings. Note that attorneys and witnesses who are physically present for in-court proceedings are required to provide and wear both masks and face shields. Additional information, including a diagram of the courtroom illustrating the restricted seating ad other physical changes, is located on each judge's chambers procedures page of the website.

 

Updated October 2, 2020

The District Court has entered General Order 15-20 extending the closure of the courthouses until January 1, 2021.  The Bankruptcy Court has the discretion to conduct a very limited number of emergency evidentiary hearings and trials in person; most trials and evidentiary hearings will proceed by telephone or video conference. All scheduled non-evidentiary hearings will continue telephonically.

If you have an evidentiary hearing or trial scheduled prior to January 1, 2021, please contact the assigned judge's chambers.

Non-evidentiary matters scheduled through December 31, 2020 are to be noted as follows: 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. In ECF, the hearing should be set using the correct physical location for the assigned judge. 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.

Non-evidentiary hearings scheduled for January 1, 2021 and later should be noted for the assigned judge's physical courtroom location, both in ECF and on the notice.  If it becomes necessary to hold these matters telephonically, the parties will be notified by chambers.

Vancouver hearings: Matters scheduled for the October 6 and December 1 Vancouver calendars should include dial-in information for Judge Lynch; matters scheduled for the November 3 Vancouver calendar should include dial-in information for Judge Heston.

 

Updated August 31, 2020

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.
 

Updated July 21 2020

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.
 

Updated May 7, 2020

New 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.

 

Information for Telephonic Appearances, Per General Order 2020-3
(Reposted at May 4, 2020, original posted at 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 April 14, 2020

District Court General Order Renewing Covid-19 Shutdown Procedures

The District Court has entered General Order 7-20 which extends the closing of the Seattle and Tacoma courthouses to the general public for an additional 30 days to May 13, 2020. The Bankruptcy Court will continue to hear non-evidentiary matters telephonically.

 

Updated April 6, 2020

Notice to the public:  During the COVID-19 outbreak, the Bankruptcy Court is available to accept filings, process cases, conduct hearings, and provide procedural information, but these services are being provided differently:

 

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 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.

 

 

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 make online payments, or 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