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HOA Litigation Under COVID-19

Colorado and most of the country are on stay at home orders of some kind.  Colorado state and federal courthouses have vacated in-person civil hearings, trials and other matters, subject to rescheduling.  With court closings, litigants have been forced to quickly adapt to virtual litigation activities that are customarily done in person.  This can include virtual depositions, hearings, and mediations. 

HOA Litigation Under COVID 19Somewhat surprisingly, courts have largely embraced this shift.  For instance, the Fourth Judicial District’s Chief Judge Order 20-16 provides that “to the extent possible, judges with civil dockets are encouraged to proceed with any matter that can be reasonably addressed over the telephone or through any audio-visual technology.” Video conferencing providers include Zoom, WebEx, GoToMeeting, Skype, etc.

Hearings and oral argument, if held, are being conducted telephonically.  Mediations are either being continued or held telephonically or utilizing virtual conferencing.  As for arbitration, most major providers (JAMS, AAA, etc.) have their staff working remotely.  Whether arbitration hearings proceed or not is up to the individual parties and panels to decide whether to continue virtually or to suspend proceedings.

For the most part, all jury trials have been suspended.  Bench trials may proceed if done so via teleconferencing.  For instance, the Second Judicial District has ordered that “all in-person civil proceedings, including bench trials, are converted to appearance by phone or by other teleconferencing options.”  All counsel, clients, and witnesses must appear remotely.  Equipment for videoconferencing or teleconferencing must be provided by the parties. 

What does this mean for community associations?  All courts are still accepting new cases and filings in existing cases.  Judges are still working, just remotely.  Cases are moving forward, and judgments are being obtained.  However, if you have a contested matter and/or trial set between now and July 2020, expect to proceed virtually.

Jonah G. Hunt is a community association attorney and partner at Orten Cavanagh & Holmes, LLC, providing strategic general counsel and litigation services to associations throughout Colorado.

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