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Governor Wolf's Business Shut Down Order Now Modified for Lawyers - Letter from Board President to Members - March 23, 2020

Dear Members,

When Governor Wolf (March 19) issued the late-afternoon business shut down Order including attorneys, early in the morning of March 20, I sent a letter to Governor Wolf attaching the March 18, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Order and, to the Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC), requesting an exception for "constitutionally mandated services." I am pleased to report the effect of that order has been modified permitting lawyers to perform essential functions as directed by the President Judges of the various Pennsylvania Counties. Thereafter, I sought further clarification/modification to include federal matters, as our federal courts remain open subject to their Chief Judges' respective cautionary and protective measures. The effect of the order has also been further modified to include federal matters in accordance with the directives of the federal courts.

The expanded federal guidance from the AOPC provides:

"Except as required to allow attorneys to participate in court functions deemed essential by a president judge per the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's order of March 18, 2020, or similar federal court directive, and lawyers may access their offices to effectuate such functions and directives."

The original issued guidance of the AOPC which was approved by the Governor states:

"In the view of AOPC, restricted access to law offices and facilities by legal professionals, staff, and clients is permitted to the degree necessary to allow attorneys to participate in court functions deemed essential by a President Judge per the Supreme Court’s order of March 18, 2020, so long as social distancing and other mitigation measures are employed for the protection of lawyers, staff, and clients. Pursuant to the Governor’s order, all other business must be conducted remotely; necessary retrieval of files or other materials should be accomplished expeditiously."

The Legal Intelligencer also published an article online on March 20 (pre-federal modification) entitled:

Pa. Office of Counsel's AOPC Guidance Saying Law Offices May Stay Open on Restricted Basis.

The links referenced above are to the national, open to the public, NACDL's Coronavirus Resources page which is collecting motions, pleadings, rulings and other helpful information to serve and support individuals, lawyers and the community during this virus emergency.

Notwithstanding the modification of the effect of Governor Wolf’s order, I have been advising everyone – including all lawyers – to take every precaution that you can – and seek to "stay put."

With my best regards and best wishes,

Theodore "Ted" Simon
President, Jenkins Law Library