During these uncertain times, bankruptcy courts across the country remain steadfast in their commitment to serve the public and provide critical relief to debtor companies and their many constituents, including employees, lenders, and other parties in interest. To address public concern about COVID-19 and to protect all parties, many bankruptcy courts have issued general orders implementing procedures and adopting protocols that balance public health and safety with parties’ need for emergency relief from the court. For example, in the Southern District of Texas, the court adopted a protocol to implement only if a need arises and only on further order of the court. Such protocol includes, among other things, procedures for requesting emergency hearings and holding electronic hearings (including the examination of witnesses) via audio and video conferencing technology. In the Southern District of New York, in consideration of the court’s order setting restrictions on certain visitors to the courthouse, the U.S. Trustee will accommodate all reasonable requests to continue Section 341 meetings by any debtor falling into certain “heightened risk” categories. In the District of Delaware, the court is continuing all hearings that are not time sensitive (to be determined by the presiding judge) to a date to be determined on or after April 15, 2020, and all hearings that are held prior to April 15, 2020 shall be held telephonically and/or by video conference.

Although each court’s response concerning COVID-19 continues to evolve and is subject to change, at the time of this publication, the following is a non-comprehensive list of the measures taken by certain courts in an effort to provide uninterrupted service and administration of justice for all concerned:

Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas:

  • In re: Adoption of Contingency Plan to Address Possible Public Health Limitations on Court Operations, General Order 2020-4, Mar. 9, 2020, available here.
  • In re: Implementation of Alternative Procedures for Conducting Chapter 13 Panel Hearings, General Order 2020-5, Mar. 16, 2020, available here.
  • In re: Implementation of Alternative Procedures for Conducting Creditor Meetings Under 11 U.S.C. § 341, General Order 2020-6, Mar. 16, 2020, available here.

Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Texas:

  • In re: Court Operations Under Exigent Circumstances Created by the COVID-19 Pandemic, General Order 2020-5, Mar. 15, 2020, available here.
  • Clerk’s Notice 20-01, Updates to Telephonic Appearance Policies, Mar. 16, 2020,  available here.

Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware:

  • Notice: Joint announcement regarding COVID-19 from Delaware District Court and Delaware Bankruptcy Court, Mar. 12, 2020, available here.
  • In re: Cessation of Hand Deliveries, Interim Order, Mar. 13, 2020, available here.
  • General Order - COVID-19, Mar. 16, 2020, available here.

Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York:

  • Notice: Courthouse Entry Protocol (Coronavirus COVID-19), Mar. 9, 2020, available here
  • Notice: Chapter 13 Debtor Appearances - Coronavirus Prevention, Mar. 9, 2020,  available here.
  • In re: Restrictions on Visitors to U.S. Bankruptcy Courthouse for the Southern District of New York, General Order M-540, Mar. 12, 2020, available here.
  • Notice of the United States Trustee Regarding the Rescheduling of Section 341 Meetings in the Southern District of New York (All Divisions), Mar. 13, 2020,  available here.

Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Virginia:

  • Entry of Standing Order 20-1, Order concerning Bankruptcy Court Operations Under the Exigent Circumstances Created by the Outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) for the Richmond Division Only, Mar. 13, 2020, available here.
  • In re: Section 341 Meetings of Creditors, Standing Order No. 20-5, Temporarily Suspending Section 341 Meetings in All Divisions of the Eastern District of Virginia, Mar. 13, 2020, available here.
  • Entry of Standing Order for Alexandria Division Only concerning Bankruptcy Court Operations Under the Exigent Circumstances Created by the Outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), Mar. 16, 2020, available here.
  • Notice of Continuance of Referenced Court Dockets, this Week, for Bankruptcy Judge Brian F. Kenney and Bankruptcy Judge Klinette H. Kindred, at the Court’s Alexandria Division, Mar. 16, 2020, available here.