The Effects of COVID-19 on the Judicial System and how SWMW Law is Moving Forward

Covid-19 & Gavel

The following blog was written by SWMW Law Partner Sophie Zavaglia.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted every aspect of our lives, including our access to the judicial system.

Beginning in the spring of 2020, courts across the country closed with no idea of when they might reopen. Without the ability to call people into court for jury service, there was no ability to start trials. Sometimes the threat of trial is the only thing that brings a defendant to the bargaining table, and our inability to try cases has put plaintiffs’ firms across the country at a disadvantage. Even as the courts reopened to in-person trials last year, due to a significant backlog in criminal trials, the civil cases that we handle were put on the backburner again. We are only now seeing the courts allowing us to set our cases for firm trial dates.

Just about every obstacle imaginable has been thrown our way in the past three years, but we have persevered as a firm and have found ways to keep the fight for our clients going.

First and foremost, we had to consider our clients’ health. Prior to the pandemic, almost all of our clients’ depositions occurred in person. This was simply not an option during a pandemic that affects the lungs. So, as many of you have experienced over the past 3 years, we shifted to taking depositions over the computer. Virtual depositions have simultaneously preserved our clients’ testimony, given them a voice, and protected them from being exposed to a potentially deadly respiratory virus.

Second, we have continued to hold defendants accountable by requesting virtual hearings with the court whenever possible and by pressing for resolution of our cases. Our skilled team of attorneys have successfully resolved many cases during the pandemic in spite of lacking the “hammer” of a jury trial.

Finally, we have used the time outside the courtroom to continue refining our firm’s trial skills. Our attorneys continued earning education credits and also attended conferences during the pandemic to stay on top of the latest trends in our litigation. As the courts reopen and welcome jurors back into the courtroom, we are well-positioned to pick up where we left off in February 2020.

So, where do we go from here? Back to the courtroom! Just this February, our trial team commenced trial proceedings in both St. Louis City and Madison County, Illinois and were successful in resolving several cases that had been put on hold during the pandemic. Our talented team of attorneys continue to take depositions and argue motions in court. And, we are also gearing up for a busy spring of putting trial-ready cases in front of jurors in the St. Louis Metro region and beyond. Clearing the COVID-19 backlog is no easy task, but we are confident that by year’s end we will be at pre-pandemic levels of cases that need to be tried.

Although the pandemic has put the entire world off-course, we remain committed to serving our clients with the zeal they’ve come to expect.