Venice Commission - Observatory on emergency situations

Disclaimer: this information was gathered by the Secretariat of the Venice Commission on the basis of contributions by the members of the Venice Commission, and complemented with information available from various open sources (academic articles, legal blogs, official information web-sites etc.).

Every effort was made to provide accurate and up-to-date information. For further details please visit our page on COVID-19 and emergency measures taken by the member States:

12. Were the judicial sessions of the Constitutional Court or court with equivalent jurisdiction and/or other courts be suspended during the Covid-19 pandemic? If so, for how long? Were specific rules on the functioning of these courts during the emergency adopted? By parliament or by the executive?


Until 1.06.2020 the judicial activity was suspended through normative acts having the force of law (see, in Albanian, and decisions of the High Judicial Council, except for the trial of urgent cases such as security measures. After this date, the courts have started to conduct their activity online, as well as to try cases only with the presence of the parties, which are considered urgent by the judges themselves, and only with the presence of the parties, if the latter have given their approval.

See, in particular, Normative Act No. 9, dated 25.03.2020 of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Albania "On specific measures to be taken for judicial activity, during the epidemic state caused by Covid-19 ("Normative Act No. 9/2020"). An English summary of Normative Act No. 9 can be found here ;

Normative Act no. 13, dated 2.4.2020 of Council of Ministers of the Republic of Albania “On specific measures to be taken for the enforcement, mediation and bankruptcy activities during of the epidemic state caused by Covid-19” ("Normative Act No. 13/2020");

Normative Act no. 21, dated 27.05.2020 of Council of Minister of the Republic of Albania “On some amendments on the Normative Act no. 9, dated 25.03.2020 of Council of Minister “On specific measures to be taken for judicial activity, during of the epidemic state caused by Covid-19” ("Normative Act No. 21/2020");

Normative Act no. 22, dated 27.05.2020 of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Albania “For abrogation of Normative Act no. 21, dated 27.05.2020 of Council of Minister “On taking specific measures for judicial activity, during of the epidemic situation caused by Covid-19” ("Normative Act No. 22/2020").


Since 14 March, general suspension of judicial procedures, except for cases affecting fundamental rights.


Sessions of the Constitutional Court continued in their normal order.

Special rules for ordinary courts have been adopted by the decision of the Supreme Judicial Council, in particular:
- Remote/online court hearings, if the consent of the trial participants is available.
- The work of the courts should be provided with the minimum possible number of employees.
- Shifts in court offices to minimize the number of employees on duty.
- Ensure the right to access the materials of cases in court proceedings through the use of all available electronic applications.
- Judges are encouraged to accept electronic documents on the condition that they be backed up as needed.
- Judges and trial participants were proposed, by prior arrangement, to adjourn all court hearings, except for cases to be heard immediately.


Judicial sessions of the Constitutional Court were not suspended. The Court, however, has changed its working methods. Personal contact between applicants and members or employees of the Court have been reduced. Employees were only present for activities that had to be carried out there. Many tasks could and still can be carried out via teleworking. To date, employees may also be present at the Court physically, however, protective measures apply (minimum distance, face masks etc).

A law was passed setting out procedural regulations for administrative authorities, administrative courts, the Supreme Administrative Court and the Constitutional Court. This law, among others, stipulates that oral hearings are to be conducted only if absolutely necessary (Section 3). Furthermore, certain time limits for pending proceedings have been interrupted (Section 1). The Federal Chancellor is authorised to extend or prolong the interruption of time limits (Section 5).


Judicial sessions of the Constitutional Court were not suspended. However, taking into account that special quarantine regime to prevent the spread of COVID-19 was announced on March 23, 2020, the Court temporarily shifted to written judicial procedures (sessions of Plenum are held in written). Reception of citizens in the Court’s building have been temporarily suspended (however, the Court receive and examine all letters and complaints both sent by post or by e-mail) and the work of judges and staff partially changed to teleworking. In April-May the Plenum of the Constitutional Court adopted 5 judgements and 2 decisions.

In March the Plenum of the Supreme Court adopted the Decision on measures taken in the courts to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection (COVID-19) in the Republic of Azerbaijan where, inter alia all courts were recommended to suspend hearing of all cases, except for those which require urgent consideration or do not require court hearing; consider administrative cases without oral hearing in accordance with Article 16 of the Administrative Procedure Code. As to civil and commercial cases it was recommended by taking into consideration provisions of the Civil Procedure Code to conduct relevant court proceedings via the "Electronic Court" information system.

Moreover, the Decision also states that the reception of persons in all courts should be suspended, and the reception should be carried out only by telephone and Internet. Individuals and legal entities should be advised to send their applications to the courts, including appeals and cassation complaints, by post or electronically.

The Decision was valid from March 20, 2020 to April 20, 2020. In April the Decision with similar provisions was adopted. It was valid until May 4, 2020.

In May the Supreme Court decided that in all courts except those located in Baku, Sumgayit, Ganja, Lankaran cities and Absheron region since 00:00 on May 4, 2020 consideration of cases to be fully restored. Judicial activity shall be conducted in accordance with the necessary social behaviour and sanitary-epidemiological rules, including social distance and mask wearing requirements.

On May 15 consideration of cases in all courts in Baku, Sumgayit, Ganja, Lankaran cities and Absheron region was renewed. It was also decided that reception of persons in all courts should be suspended, and the reception should be carried out only by telephone and Internet. Individuals and legal entities should be advised to send their applications to the courts, including appeals and cassation complaints, by post or electronically.


The judicial sessions of the various jurisdictions have not been suspended.
Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, the College of Courts and Tribunals ensured that the measures decreed by the National Security Council were implemented.
Classified among the crucial or essential services, justice has sought, in its organization, a fair balance between fundamental respect for the health security of its actors (magistrates, staff members, lawyers, litigants and other stakeholders) and the necessary continuity of service of justice. From then on, many cases could still be dealt with and numerous hearings maintained:
- emergency procedures have been dealt with (for example, summary proceedings);
- Family and civil hearings were maintained as far as possible;
- in civil cases the written procedure has been applied to a large extent, so that many cases have been taken under advisement.
- urgent criminal cases have been dealt with, the parties being represented by their lawyer. In this way, the physical presence in the courtrooms could be limited, as well as the transfer of detainees, which drastically reduced the risks of contamination in the prisons;
- Access to the registries and their functioning were ensured, solutions geared towards lawyers and litigants being sought. Electronic filing of petitions, letters, submissions and documents via eDeposit or electronic mail has been encouraged and facilitated;
- Videoconferencing has been used in different types of hearings, allowing cases to be taken under advisement.
For safety's sake, the college encouraged postponement of the introductory civil case hearings, as this meant large groups of people had to be present in confined spaces. All this was carried out in consultation with the bars and the bailiffs, who were also forced to reorganize their activities.
The civil proceedings had to be suspended. The backlog which has thus inevitably been created will be cleared as soon as possible by the courts and the courts to which the College has asked to hold additional hearings, depending on the needs and availability of staff, also during the months of July and August.

  Bosnia and Herzegovina

During the pandemic, the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina maintained its activities as planned. Regular sessions of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina were held online according to a predetermined session plan.

As far as ordinary courts are concerned, on 22 March 2020 the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council passed a Decision on the organization of work in courts and prosecutor's offices in BiH, which, among other things, ordered the following: postponement of main trials in criminal cases, except in cases in which detention is ordered or requested, and where limitation period may expire; and in other emergencies prescribed by criminal law in Bosnia and Herzegovina; postponement of hearings in misdemeanour cases, except in cases related to the failure to comply with orders of competent authorities issued in relation to COVID-19 pandemic; postponement of hearings in civil matters, except in cases where a decision on a interm measure is to be adopted; organizing duty roster of judges and prosecutors. The decision also states that the decision remains in force as long as the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic virus persist in Bosnia and Herzegovina.


Regulations on the Organization of the Activities of the Constitutional Court was supplemented, SG No. 30/31.03.2020, effective 4.04.2020, with a new Article 30b, which regulates that the Constitutional Court may, by way of exception, hold its sessions and adopt decisions without attendance, by video conference which ensures the secrecy of the judicial deliberation. Where necessary, judges may participate by video conference also in attendance sessions of the Court.

The Constitutional Court's session scheduled for 23 July 2020 was held via video conference which ensures the secrecy of the deliberation.

For the courts which are part of the judicial system the Judges Chamber of the Supreme Judicial Council with a Decision under Protocol No 8/10.03.2020, item 31 recommended to the administrative heads of the courts in the country not to consider cases scheduled in open court hearings within one month, except for the cases explicitly provided for in Art. 329, para. 3 of the Judicial System Act, promptly notifying the parties in the cases concerned. The excluded cases are the following:
- criminal cases in which detention in custody has been ordered as a precautionary measure to secure the appearance of a person;
- cases relating to maintenance, to parental rights to children who have not attained majority and to wrongful dismissal;
- motions for securing actions, for the perpetuation of evidence, for granting permissions and issuing orders under the Family Code, for the appointment of an ad hoc representative;
- bankruptcy cases;
- cases under the Protection against Domestic Violence Act;
- cases which must be examined within less than one month, as provided by law;
- cases relating to child adoption;
- other cases, at the discretion of the administrative head of the court or prosecution office or of the Minister of Justice.

In May the Judges Chamber of the Supreme Judicial Council adopted Rules and measures for the work of the courts in a pandemic. The document establishes rules for one-way traffic in the court buildings, the regime of access of the parties in cases to court hearings and records, as well as rules on how citizens may use administrative services. Measures were envisaged to ensure the hearing of scheduled cases in a courtroom and by video conference, as well as remote work of judges and court employees who are not on duty and are obliged to be physically present in the court building. The creation of an electronic register of cases postponed for objective reasons was introduced after coordination between the judge and the administrative head of the court. Specific measures have been identified to ensure the publicity of court hearings and the work of courts, such as the preparation of daily detailed reports on cases of public interest, statements by public relations officers or other authorized officials, and others.


On 16 March 2020, the Supreme Court of Cyprus suspended the operation of the courts in the Republic of Cyprus in all instances until 30 April 2020 or until further notice, except for a certain categories of urgent criminal cases concerning detention periods or other urgent matters, as may be outlined in the relevant Regulations or where prior leave of the Court is obtained for the filing or the hearing of a matter within the said period. As such, trials scheduled were by default adjourned. The Court issued a relevant announcement specifying what might be heard regarding both criminal and civil cases leaving a margin of discretion to each court to decide whether an issue is extremely urgent or not.

  Czech Republic

The Constitutional Court continued its activities during the state of emergency. It however adopted certain emergency measures involving the closure of the CC building to the public and the impossibility to check the documents at the premises of the CC. The emergency measures were suspended by 11 May 2020.


Courts, as many other public institutions, were partially closed, but exceptions were made for the examination of the most urgent cases. The judicial sessions of all courts were partly suspended for approximately 2 months. The decision to do so was not made by Parliament or the Executive, but by the independent Board of the Judiciary. The decision was based on the general advice of the government health agencies, but it was stressed that this was the Board´s own decision.


Neither on the Constitutional Council, nor in the Council of State, nor in the Court of Cassation there was a suspension. The initial work timetable has been revised, and working procedures were adapted to the health measures. As a result, direct public access to hearings has been restricted. These organisational measures belong to the exclusive competence of the courts concerned.

An organic law introduced a single amendment regarding these three courts. It dealt with the three-month period (provided for by an organic law) in which the two "filter" courts must rule on the constitutionality requests; otherwise the matter dealt with directly by that Council. The Council, which was automatically involved as it was an organic law, validated this organic law. It does not appear that significant delays have actually occured, On the contrary, there were a lot of cases related tot the monitoring the application of the specific textes concerning the current emergency.

For other jurisdictions, extensions of time in civil and criminal matters were introduced either by ordinannces or by the law itself. But in fact that the functionning of these courts has been greatly impacted by the essential health protection measures introduced in the judicial proceedings.


German courts are still functioning, but with various restrictions. Whenever possible, judicial proceedings take place in written form or via videoconference.

The German Federal Constitutional Court (BVerfG), the Länder constitutional courts and the administrative courts in the Länder have been and are receiving many applications against Covid-19 measures. Some have been lifted, most have not (see Q14).

Restrictions based on orders and general orders of local authorities can be lodged with the administrative courts according to § 40 Administrative Court Act (Verwaltungsgerichtsordnung, VwGO). Restrictions on the bases of ordinances of the Länder, which were issued according to §§ 28 I, 32 IfSG may be appealed in the course of the administrative judicial norm-control according to § 47 I No. 2 VwGO. The higher administrative courts decide on applications for an interim order pursuant to § 47 VI VwGO. The Federal Constitutional Court can also issue temporary orders if this is urgently required to avert serious disadvantages, to prevent impending violence or for any other reason for the common good (§ 32 I Federal Constitutional Court Act). In most Länder, affected natural and legal persons can also turn to the Länder constitutional court if a fundamental right guaranteed in the constitution of the Land has been infringed by a sovereign act of the Land. Mostly, the constitutional complaint is excluded from the Land constitutional court if the constitutional complaint has been or will be raised to the Federal Constitutional Court. If the appeal to the Land Constitutional Court is not subsidiary or limited to a certain object, the appellant has the choice.


Article 54 Paragraph (2) of the FL clearly states that under a special legal order, the application of the FL may not be suspended, and the operation of the Constitutional Court may not be restricted. This provides the constitutional control over the actions of the Government in a state of danger too.

Act XII of 2020 on the containment of coronavirus (see in English here) stipulated that the President and the Secretary-General of the Constitutional Court shall provide for the continuous operation of the Constitutional Court during the period of state of danger and shall to this end take the measures necessary in terms of operation, case management and preparation of decisions. To remain fully in operation, based on a decision by the President of the Constitutional Court, the plenary sessions of the Constitutional Court and the sittings of the panels may be held using electronic communication means until the end of the period of state of danger.

Furthermore, during the period of state of danger, the President of the Constitutional Court may permit derogation from the rules of procedure of the Constitutional Court.

The President of the Constitutional Court issued an order on the organisational, operational, administrative and decision-preparing measures connected to the continuous operation of the Constitutional Court during the state of danger. (See in English here).

On a proposal from the President of the Curia, the President of the National Office for the Judiciary and the Prosecutor General, the Government Decree 45/2020 (14 March) (II) introduced an extraordinary court vacation which had been in effect until 30 March. Government Decree 74/2020 (31 March) on certain procedural measures applicable during the period of state of danger defined specific procedural rules applicable under the state of danger.


Special temporary rules were introduced by the judiciary itself. This was done by Practice Direction from the Chief Justice dated 16 April issued pursuant to pre-existing laws. The Supreme Court is operating by remote hearing but judgments are being delivered in public in a courtroom. In other courts remote hearings are being held in many cases while this crisis lasts. Where public hearings are being heard in a courtroom public access is limited and there are special arrangements and facilities to provide for physical distancing.
The Practice Direction was followed up by a statement from the presidents of the five different jurisdictions setting out the new arrangements.
The authorities propose to enact primary legislation when possible to underpin the actions taken by practice direction.


The judicial sessions both of the Constitutional Court and of the other courts were not suspended during the Covid-19 pandemic, although the public hearings did not take place. The Constitutional Court has never stopped its activities and has taken deliberations “in chambers”. In a second phase it has decided to have public hearings via internet if the parties asked for oral discussion. Otherwise the decisions were taken only on the basis of the written arguments. Whereas the Constitutional court was completely independent in adopting the related decisions, the ordinary and the administrative courts’ activity was decided by decree-laws. (n. 11 and 18 of 2020). These pieces of legislation envisage different rules for different type of process: administrative, civil and penal.

  Korea, Republic

In South Korea, the Constitutional Court and the general courts operated as usual during the health crisis. However, in March, when the spread of COVID-19 was severe, the general courts proceeded with delay of ‘non-urgent’ case hearings. This had a limited effect of slow-down of the ongoing procedures.


The work of the Constitutional Chamber has not been officially suspended, but since the parties to the proceedings were unable, for objective reasons, to take part in the proceedings, the trials have been postponed as a result of the motions of the parties to the proceedings, and on the Constitutional Chamber’s own initiative.
Nor have the courts of general jurisdiction been officially suspended, but many cases have been suspended for objective reasons related to the illness of the parties to the proceedings, the restrictions imposed on movement from the places where the state of emergency operated. Trials have been postponed, except in urgent cases.


Activities of the courts and especially of the State Court were not formally suspended. The Act of 8 April 2020 on Accompanying Administrative and Judicial Measures in Connection with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) (COVID-19 VJBG) (LGBl 2020/Nr. 136) includes, for example, special provisions for collegial courts to take decisions by way of circulation. This Act will be in force until 15 June 2020.
According to Art 5 para of this Act, hearings and oral proceedings before a court or administrative authority may be held only if (a) if the proceedings appear necessary to be continued after careful consideration of all circumstances; and (b) the general interest in preventing and combating the spread of the Coronavirus does not outweigh the individual interests.

If it is absolutely necessary to hold a hearing of one of the parties or to hold an oral proceeding, it may be held without the personal presence of all parties using appropriate technical means of communication.

This provision restricted the operation of the courts considerably. However, the Corona-related provisions did not bring considerable changes to the courts of higher instances given that respective decisions could also be taken using telephone and video conferences.


In the Constitutional Court, judicial sessions were not suspended and the regular work on preparing constitutional justice cases for examination by the Constitutional Court was carried out but, following the recommendations of the Government and by the order of the President of the Constitutional Court, the daily work was organised remotely as far as it was possible, except in cases where some functions had to be performed on the premises of the Court. In addition, the possibility of filing a constitutional petition in person was suspended for two and a half of month, but the Court continued to accept petitions filed via post or electronic means.

No specific rules on the functioning of the Constitutional Court were adopted by Parliament or the Government during the quarantine. Later during the quarantine the President of the Constitutional Court approved new working methods.

The Judicial Council, on the basis of recommendations of the Government, issued the recommendations regarding the organisation of courts' activities during the quarantine period. Oral hearings, except in urgent cases, were postponed until May; instead, hearings by videoconference were organised where possible. Access to court premises was restricted. From 4 May, oral hearings were renewed, with necessary sanitary precautions being taken.


From 18 March to 15 April the Supteme Court suspended its activities; as from 15 April, the Supreme Court started to meet through videoconference as per rules of procedure enacted by the plenary court on the basis of various general agreements. The Electoral Tribunal contined to function first by using a written procedure and later by videoconferences, but it is only dealing with urgent matters.

Other federal tribunals, as per decision of the Federal Judicial Council, are dealing with the urgent matters only.


The session of the Supreme Court in April was cancelled, but litigants retained the opportunity to refer the matter to the President of the Supreme Court in an emergency. By the Sovereign Ordinance no. 8.019 of 26 March 2020, the deadlines for appeals to the Supreme Court have been suspended, with the exception of those involved in the exercise of the emergency procedure.

Court hearings were cancelled from 16 March to 4 May 2020, but all urgent procedures were dealt with (detention matters, hearings of flagrante delicto, placement of minors or statutory placement of adults in distress, protection orders, etc.).

Law 1.486 of 9 April 2020 relating to the justice system suspended for two months most procedural and hearing deadlines, with the possibility of extension.


The Constitutional Court has continued to function normally, while the other courts have suspended hearings except for the most urgent criminal cases which were examined through the remote trial process.


Sessions of courts were partly suspended by court presidents in lower courts. In addition, there was a general slowing down of the proceedings due to the application of new sanitary measures. General measures were adopted by the government according to delegated powers in the Corona Law. Yet, all measures were approved by the parliament and were subject to short hearings by the affected parties.


Peru’s Constitutional Court did not convene in the first three weeks of the state of emergency, but continued studying cases and formulating draft decisions at the magistrates’ offices level. It restarted its Plenary sessions and hearings on April 7th, using on-line tools. The Court itself decided these working arrangements.


During the state of emergency determined by COVID-19 , the courts maintained all their powers, functions and responsibilities. Some new rules/procedures were introduced for sanitary reasons; procedural deadlines were suspended to avoid prejudice to the interested parties. However, all claims related to the exercise of fundamental rights during the state of emergency could be submitted to the courts in the usual manner. Where possible, the law provides for the use of means of remote communication, such as videoconferencing.

Judicial management bodies (Superior Councils and the Attorney General's Office) determined procedures regarding the use of means of remote communication, in order to limit the physical presence of magistrates, bailiffs or people in the court buildings.


The sessions of the Constitutional Court were suspended during the state of emergency, but otherwise the Court's registry continued to operate normally. On 22 March the Constitutional Court published in its website the Instructions on the work of the Office of the Constitutional Court for the direct receipt of submissions during a state of emergency.

Regarding the work of the ordinary courts, on March 17 the Ministry of Justice issued Recommendations on the work of courts and public prosecutor’s offices during the state of emergency. As to civil cases, a recommendation was given to postpone the hearings, save for certain urgent categories of cases. Regarding these exceptions, the court will grant the party’s request to postpone the hearing for sanitary reasong, for example if one of the participant of the trial is over 60 years old. The hearings in criminal cases re detention, domestic violence, breach of the health regulations during epidemics , cases involving minors, etc., are to be held.

The court’s and public prosecutor office’s staff was recommended to work from home, if possible.

Acting on the Ministry of Justice Recommendations, the High Judicial Council adopted a prioroty policy guidlines. Also, on 20 March 2020, the Government issued a decree on deadlines in court proceedings during the state of emergency.


The sessions of the Constitutional Court were not suspended. The Head of the Chancellery of the Court decided that most employees would work from home from 16 March 2020 to 10 May 2020, roughly corresponding to the first wave of the pandemic in Slovakia.

Law no. 62/2020 of 25 March 2020 suspended certain procedural time limits (§§ 1, 2) and obliged the ordinary courts to conduct public hearings during the state of emergency or extraordinary situation only if necessary (§3 par. 1 letter a)). It allowed the courts to exclude the public form a hearing for the purposes of protecting public health and instead make a recording of the hearing (§3 par. 1 letter b) and par. 2).


The second additional provision of Royal Decree 463/2020, on the declaration of the state of alarm, generally established the "suspension of procedural deadlines", which will have to be resumed when the state of alarm ends (subsequently, but without being applicable until that time, Royal Decree Law 16/2020, of 28 April, on procedural and organisational measures to deal with COVID-19 in the area of the Administration of Justice, has established the criteria that the courts of justice will have to follow in order to resume their activity). Some exceptions to this suspension are expressly established: thus, the suspension does not affect habeas corpus proceedings, proceedings concerning detainees, protection orders, prison surveillance, violence against women or minors, protection of the fundamental rights of the person, collective conflict, protection of minors or, more openly, those necessary to avoid irreparable damage to the rights and legitimate interests of the parties in the proceedings.

As for the Constitutional Court, by decision of 16 March 2020, adopted by the Plenary in a virtual meeting, it was established that the deadlines for any procedural or administrative actions were suspended during the state of alarm, although appeals and briefs affecting the various constitutional or administrative processes could still be filed. Applying the principle of regular functioning of the institutions mentioned above, it was also agreed that the Constitutional Court would continue to issue such rulings and interim measures as may be necessary "in the constitutional processes as so required, in order to guarantee the constitutional system and fundamental rights and public freedoms". The Constitutional Court subsequently adopted the decision of 6 May 2020, also of the Plenary, to specify that, in all constitutional processes already under way, the terms and deadlines that had been suspended by application of the previous decision would be recalculated from the beginning, the first day of the calculation being therefore the next working day following that on which the suspension of the proceedings was lifted.


The sessions of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court have not been suspended and no specific rules have been adopted. The procedural provisions for the sessions and how to make legal decisions have not been changed. However, these courts have informally decided to make certain practical changes in the daily work of the panels and justices with widened possibilities for the justices to work from home by means of video/audio facilities.


As previously stated (see Q2), Switzerland does not have any legislation on the state of emergency (in the sense of a qualified extraordinary situation). The question is therefore not applicable in the Swiss context. The legislation governing extraordinary situa-tions (as opposed to emergency situations) has not been amended.

  North Macedonia

The judicial sessions of the Constitutional Court were not suspended. The Court worked with a higher intensity and had meetings two to three days per week, while in normal times it has meetings once a week. All decrees with the force of law were challenged before the Constitutional Court and were reviewed (in North Macedonia every person can initiate procedure for judicial review of constitutionality).


The Constitutional Court is still not established, but the provisional body responsible for overseeing the constitutionality of laws continued to function.


Under provisional Article 1 of the Law No. 7226 on Amendments to Some Laws, judicial deadlines for the proceedings before the Constitutional Court have been suspended until April 30, and this suspension was later extended until June 15. The deadlines for lodging individual applications to the Constitutional Court of Turkey were also suspended until that date. The Court continued to receive individual applications during this time. In particular, applications requesting interim measures were examined. Other individual applications were also examined, but rather in slow pace. In the Court, members and rapporteur judges switched to teleworking. The regular plenary and sections sessions have been suspended; however, online plenary meetings have been held when necessary. As regard to personnel, a minimum number of staff (1 employee per unit) is working by rotation in each department, and others are encouraged to work remotely. During the pandemic, the Court held one plenary session through video-call. Thereafter, the Court continued to have regular sessions of the Plenary and Sections by employing social distancing and other disinfection and sterilization measures.

As regards ordinary courts, measures were taken to postpone hearings and judicial inspections of the first instance civil and administrative courts, and to continue all other judicial activities and proceedings. Priority was given to detention orders, investigation and prosecution of cases that are close to the period of limitation, requests for suspension of execution, and other proceedings considered as urgent.

These measures were taken by the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (for the lower courts), as well as by the regional courts of appeals and regional administrative courts, in accordance with the provisional article 1 of the Law No. 7226 on Amendments to Some Laws.

In the courthouses measures such as social distance, mask wearing and hygiene rules were in place, and staff was encouraged to telework.


The Constitutional Court and ordinary courts continued their normal functionning

  United Kingdom

The UK does not have a constitutional court. The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom does not act as a constitutional court (arguably save for, exceptionally, when it hears references about the validity of devolved legislation, which could not be brought by a private citizen). The Supreme Court has since 23 March 2020 heard all its cases remotely, via videoconferencing software. Its sessions were not suspended because of the pandemic.
The courts which would at first instance hear a public law or human rights challenge to any public health regulations would be: in England and Wales, the Administrative Court; in Scotland, the Outer House of the Court of Session; and in Northern Ireland, the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court. These courts did not cease sitting, at least not for urgent matters, and proceedings were conducted remotely so far as possible.
Most of the steps taken to ensure the effective administration of justice were taken by the judiciary themselves, applying the procedures of the court flexibly in order to ensure that civil justice could continue. As the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales stated: "The rules in both the civil and family courts are flexible enough to enable telephone and video hearings of almost everything. Any legal impediments will be dealt with. HMCTS are working urgently on expanding the availability of technology but in the meantime we have phones, some video facilities and Skype. The default position now in all jurisdictions must be that hearings should be conducted with one, more than one or all participants attending remotely. That will not always be possible. Sensible precautions should be taken when people attend a hearing. They are now well-known. We all take them when out of the home. There will be bumps along the road as we all get used to new ways of working forced on us the biggest public health emergency the world has faced for a century."

(b) Measures Adopted
Alongside the flexible approach adopted by the courts, Parliament passed measures in the CA to ensure that the administration of open civil justice could continue. S. 55 CA gives effect to Schedule 25, which temporarily inserts s 85A into the Courts Act 2003, and thereby creates a mechanism by which proceedings conducted entirely by video can be made accessible to the public. That section provides:
85A Enabling the public to see and hear proceedings
(1) If the court directs that proceedings are to be conducted wholly as video proceedings, the court —
(a)may direct that the proceedings are to be broadcast (in the manner specified in the direction) for the purpose of enabling members of the public to see and hear the proceedings;
(b)may direct that a recording of the proceedings is to be made (in the manner specified in the direction) for the purpose of enabling the court to keep an audio-visual record of the proceedings.
(2) If the court directs that proceedings are to be conducted wholly as audio proceedings, the court —
(a)may direct that the proceedings are to be broadcast (in the manner specified in the direction) for the purpose of enabling members of the public to hear the proceedings;
(b)may direct that a recording of the proceedings is to be made (in the manner specified in the direction) for the purpose of enabling the court to keep an audio record of the proceedings.
(3) A direction under this section may relate to the whole, or to part, of the proceedings concerned.

These powers have not yet been used to their full potential in England and Wales. Instead, Practice Direction 51Y has come into effect, and purports to set out how justice can be administered openly without courtrooms being open. That practice direction provides: 2. During the period in which this Direction is in force, where the court directs that proceedings are to be conducted wholly as video or audio proceedings and it is not practicable for the hearing to be broadcast in a court building, the court may direct that the hearing must take place in private where it is necessary to do so to secure the proper administration of justice. 3. Where a media representative is able to access proceedings remotely while they are taking place, they will be public proceedings. In such circumstances it will not be necessary to make an order under paragraph 2 and such an order may not be made. 4. Any hearing held in private under paragraph 2 must be recorded, where that is practicable, in a manner directed by the court. […] On the application of any person, any recording so made is to be accessed in a court building, with the consent of the court.

As regards Northern Ireland, s. 57 CA, through Schedule 27, makes provision for the use of live links in legal proceedings in Northern Ireland.

  United States of America

At Federal Level: The United States Supreme Court announced on March 12 that, per coronavirus public health recommendations, it would be closing its building to the public temporarily. On March 16, the Supreme Court postponed its March argument session, and on April 3, it postponed April arguments as well. To accommodate these changes due to COVID-19, the Court extended the filing deadline. On April 13, the Court announced that from May 4, it would begin to hear a limited number of cases via telephone conference.

The federal courts of appeals (otherwise known as circuit courts) and the federal district courts have varied in their measures they have taken in response to the pandemic. Courts transitioned to virtual proceedings during the most intense phases of local outbreaks. On April 27, the “Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts [...] distributed to the courts guidelines for restoring operations that rely heavily on conditions in local communities and on objective data from local and state public health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

At State Level:

In response to COVID-19, state courts commonly restricted or ended jury trials, suspended in-person proceedings, restricted access to courthouses, granted extensions for court deadlines (e.g., paying fees and fines), and encouraged teleconferences as an alternative to hearings.

GA: The Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, Hon. Harold D. Melton, declared a statewide judicial emergency on March 14, 2020. This order encouraged courts to remain open to perform “essential functions,” including: situations where an “immediate liberty or safety concern” required immediate court attention; criminal search and arrest warrants, initial appearances, and bond reviews; domestic abuse orders; juvenile court detention hearings; and mental health commitment hearings. Criminal trials that had begun were ordered to continue until completed. Court functions were to be carried out in a way that limited the risk of exposure, with the Chief Justice specifically recommending videoconferencing where possible. Deadlines were suspended for the period of the judicial emergency.

The judicial emergency was extended on April 6 and then extended and amended on May 11, 2020. It is currently set to expire on July 12. The May 11 amendments included a prohibition on jury trials and grand jury proceedings, with an exception for grand juries that had already been impaneled and needed to respond to time-sensitive issues. The order mandated, however, that no grand jury should be assembled unless public health guidance around social distancing, etc., could be followed. Other amendments gave judges discretion to reimpose deadlines and compel the participation of essential personnel in remote judicial proceedings. Courts were not permitted to engage in non-essential in-person proceedings until they elaborated “written guidelines as to how in-court proceedings generally and particular types of proceedings will be conducted to protect the health of litigants, lawyers, judges, court personnel, and the public.”

NE: All Nebraska trial courts remained open. However, the state Supreme Court ordered attorneys and parties to notify the court if someone scheduled to attend a court proceeding had an elevated risk of transmitting the novel coronavirus or if the proceedings would require travel or other activities that contravened CDC and other public health guidance. Individual counties also enacted restrictions, including health checks and the use of alternate entrances.

NY: On March 22, 2020, the filing of papers in the New York state courts was suspended except for essential matters. On April 13, the virtual court model that had been growing in scope over the past weeks expanded further, allowing for litigation to proceed remotely. The New York Court of Appeals (the court of last resort in New York) announced on April 6 that it would not be hearing oral arguments during its April/May session.

WA: On March 4, the Supreme Court of the state of Washington authorized all judges to adopt appropriate rules for the COVID-19 emergency, including closing courts where necessary. On March 20, this order was amended to suspend all jury trials (except where the jury had already been selected and social distancing could be observed). All other proceedings that took place were required to be conducted virtually, except for emergencies that could only be dealt with in person. Subsequent orders suspended the requirement of in-person oaths in open court and temporarily allowed those recent law school graduates who could not get a seat for the bar exam due to social distancing requirements to practice under supervision until they could take the exam. On April 13, the amended order from March 20 was extended through May 4 and revised to cover juvenile proceedings. The order was renewed on May 28 and extended through July 6.

WI: On March 11, 2020, the Wisconsin state courts issued a statement indicating that the administrators were monitoring the pandemic situation closely and “any decision to adjust circuit court calendars or operating procedures would be determined locally.” Two days later, on March 13, Chief Justice Patience Drake Roggensack of the Wisconsin Supreme Court issued an order limiting attendance at its March oral arguments. On March 17, the Wisconsin Supreme Court gave further instructions for alterations to appellate operations due to COVID-19 precautions. On April 10, the Wisconsin court system developed an online video conference platform to keep dockets moving. On May 15, the Wisconsin Court COVID-19 Task Force released its final report, providing guidelines to help orchestrate courts’ gradual reopening over the subsequent weeks and months. On June 3, the director of the Wisconsin state courts gave an interview about how circuit courts would start to resume in-person proceedings.