NOTE - this post is written based on information available as of March 22, 2020.
At this point, everyone has been affected by COVID-19 somehow. Some have contracted COVID-19, but most are being affected indirectly. Whether it be businesses shutting down (some voluntarily, and others by order of the State), our kids not having school, or simply trying to pick up some select items at the local store, most of us are affected by COVID-19. The following are some of the changes to the Iowa legal system.
Most Trials and Hearings are Postponed
Criminal trials, whether with or without a jury, are postponed until at least April 20, 2020. Any in person criminal sentencing hearings are also postponed until at least April 20, 2020. However, the sentencings can be conducted by telephone or videoconference if certain waivers are filed.
Likewise, civil trials, whether with or without a jury, and most hearings are postponed until at least May 4, 2020. A hearing can still be conducted by telephone or video conference.
So what does this mean for you? Probably not much in the short term. If you had a trial scheduled between now and the beginning of May, it will be continued to a later date. If you had a hearing scheduled between now and the beginning of May, most likely it will be handled by telephone. However, in the long term, expect a back log of cases, which means new trials and hearings will have to be scheduled further out. You can read all of the Court's COVID-19 updates here.
Governor Suspends Most Residential Evictions and More
On Friday, March 20, 2020, Governor Kim Reynolds issued a new State Public Health Emergency Declaration. The Declaration is currently in effect through April 16, 2020. The declaration has three major legal ramifications.
First, most residential evictions are now suspended. This means most evictions will not occur until April 17, 2020. The only exception is an eviction under Iowa Code Section 648.1(1). This means you can still file an eviction where a person "has by force, intimidation, fraud, or stealth entered upon the prior actual possession of another in real property, and detains the same." To put it succintly, there are no residential evictions allowed until April 17, 2020, except when evicting 'squatters.'
Second, the Governor suspended the imposition of property tax penalties and interest. You still must pay your property taxes. However, on late property tax payments, no interest or penalties will accrue through April 16, 2020.
Third, those entities that are subject to open meeting laws can now hold their meetings electronically. In addition, when the meeting is held at a physical location, the government body can limit in-person attendance to ensure there are no more than 10 people physically present at the meeting. However, the government body must still ensure the public can listen and participate. For any electronic meeting, the government body must provide a public notice (as they always have) and the notice must include a telephone conference number or website address for the public to use. You can read Governor Reynolds full declaration here.
The Small Business Administration issued a disaster declaration for the State of Iowa. If your business has been impacted by COVID-19, you may qualifify for a low-interest support loan. You can read more about the SBA's disaster loan assistance program here.
Finally, unemployment benefits have been opened up to a wide swath of people who have been affected by COVID-19, whether directly or indirectly. You can read more about that from Iowa Workforce Development here.
How has Rockhold Law Changed with COVID-19?
Rockhold Law remains open to the public. However, we at Rockhold Law encourage everyone to practice social distancing when possible. We are wiping down surfaces frequently throughout the day, and after each client visits us. Finally, Rockhold Law can now meet with people via video conferencing, for those that would prefer it.
Stay safe out there.
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P.O. Box 336
Corydon, Iowa 50060
Phone: (641) 872-2550
Fax: (888) 694-2655
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