As our community works together to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hallett Whipple Weyrens, like most businesses, has changed the way that we work and serve our clients. As trial attorneys, our business is closely tied to court schedules and operations, and on March 18, 2020, Maine federal and state courts both issued orders in response to the outbreak that drastically limit the type of proceedings being scheduled or heard.
Through May 1, 2020, the State of Maine Judicial Branch will only hear the following case types and proceedings:
- Arraignments and first appearances of defendants held in custody
- Motions for review of bail of defendants held in custody
- Juvenile detention hearings
- Protection from Abuse requests and hearings
- Protection from Harassment requests and hearings
- Child Protection petitions and hearings
- Mental health requests and hearings
- Emergency guardianships
- Hearings granted on motion
The United States District Court, District of Maine has similarly cancelled all jury trials and limited in-person hearings to initial appearances, detention hearings, sentencing hearings in cases where the sentence is reasonably expected to result in the release of a defendant from jail, change of plea hearings and probation revocation proceedings in which liberty interests are at stake, and emergency injunctive relief sought in civil cases. Other motions and issues in criminal cases that can be addressed either without a hearing or through a telephonic hearing are still scheduled.
If clients need legal services, we are still providing courtroom representation for those in-person proceedings that the courts consider essential and our attorneys are available to arrange a meeting for that purpose. To protect the health of our clients and employees, and the public, we are abiding by all social distancing recommendations during any client interactions.
Although the courts are functioning on a limited basis, we are hard at work remotely resolving cases, preparing for trials, and attending to our clients' needs with telephonic and video conferences, and a variety of other digital tools.
We are also investigating ways to help clients suffering because of the pandemic. Our incarcerated populations face a unique threat. Correctional facilities are ill-equipped to prevent or contain any outbreak and in normal times frequently lack the necessities required for basic hygiene, like soap. At the end of March we were successful with an emergency motion to have a client freed on bail from federal prison as they await the results of an appeal. This was based upon the heightened, unsafe level of risk posed by incarceration during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are monitoring the pandemic's spread through Maine's jails and prisons. On March 31, 2020, the Bolduc Correctional Facility in Warren reported that an employee tested positive for COVID-19. The risks are obvious. If you, a family member, or loved one is incarcerated and wants to explore what options might be available for emergency relief please contact us today by visiting www.hww.law or calling (207) 775-4255.
There are reports from around the country that health care workers on the front lines are facing disciplinary action or losing their jobs after speaking out about chronic personal protection equipment or PPE shortages. Maine's Whistleblower Protection Act, 26 M.R.S. §833, protects whistleblower employees who face an adverse employment action or other retaliatory act after reporting dangerous working conditions to their employer or a public body. If you were terminated or disciplined after reporting an unsafe working condition, please contact us today by visiting www.hww.law or calling (207) 775-4255.
Many small businesses maintain business interruption insurance coverage that may provide some benefits to those who have temporarily closed because of the outbreak and the Governor's March 24, 2020, Executive Order mandating that all non-essential businesses suspend public-facing operations. Hallett Whipple Weyrens is currently analyzing the availability of insurance coverage and whether insurance companies are wrongfully denying claims by shuttered businesses. If your business maintains business interruption insurance coverage, or your insurer has denied a claim please contact us today by visiting www.hww.law or calling (207) 775-4255.