COVID-19 Impact on Litigation in Idaho

There are some decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.”

The last few weeks have felt like decades in a lot of respects. As with seemingly everything else, every day brings a “new normal” to litigation in Idaho.  Our team wanted to provide you a quick summary on some of the significant developments in Idaho over the last few days, including within the last few hours, and how those events will affect litigation in Idaho.

Governor Brad Little Issues Statewide Stay-Home Order

On Wednesday, March 25, 2020, Idaho Governor Brad Little issued a statewide stay-home order. The order requires all individuals living in Idaho to self-isolate other than to provide or receive essential services. Legal services, other than those “necessary to assist in compliance with legally mandated activities,” are not deemed essential services.

Idaho’s Fourth Judicial District Issues Order on March 25, 2020

To provide some background and to give a sense of how quickly things are moving, Idaho’s Fourth Judicial District, which encompasses Boise and some outlying counties, issued an order the same afternoon that the statewide stay-home order was issued. There were two significant aspects to the order: first, the order stated that any civil motion may be decided on the written motions, briefs, or memoranda, with no hearing required (either in person or by video/telephone); and second, the order stated that there will be no jury or court trials until further notice.

The Idaho Supreme Court Issues Order on March 26, 2020

On March 26, 2020, the Idaho Supreme Court issued an order to address the statewide stay-home order. While the new order is somewhat consistent with the Idaho Supreme Court’s prior orders and the Fourth Judicial District’s order, it supersedes all previous orders, including the one the Fourth Judicial District issued on Wednesday, and has some additional directives:

  • Only emergency hearings will be conducted at this time;
  • All deadlines (presumably to include discovery deadlines) which fall between March 26, 2020 and April 15, 2020 shall be extended to April 16, 2020 (court orders to produce discovery by a certain date are unaffected);
  • No statutory deadlines for the filing of claims, like statutes of limitation, are affected by the order;
  • Trials will not go forward at this time. The order provides some specifics with regard to criminal trials but, unfortunately, not civil trials. We are waiting for further guidance on this matter and will update you when we receive it;
  • All Idaho Supreme Court hearings scheduled during April will be vacated and the cases will be heard without oral argument, unless a party objects.

However, the order also provides some relatively good news: the courts will continue to accept new pleadings, and filings in all cases and motions may be decided by the courts without a hearing while the order is in place.

The news that courts were going to be considering motions without hearings was welcome to us. Courts in some jurisdictions, like Sacramento, were closed entirely other than for emergency matters and all civil matters were suspended until further order of the court. The Idaho Supreme Court’s decision to allow matters to be heard without hearings means that we will be able to move cases along, though perhaps more slowly, during this crisis.

Prior to the Governor’s stay-home order and the Idaho Supreme Court’s order addressing the same, individual courts had begun vacating certain hearings on a case-by-case basis. The individual judges appear to be taking different approaches and some judges appeared to be handling even individual cases differently. The uniformity provided by the Idaho Supreme Court’s order will be helpful in helping us plan case strategy going forward.

We will continue to update you as things develop, which they seemingly do by the hour. As always, please let us know if you have questions or would like to discuss. Stay safe, and we wish the best to you and yours.