Legal Limbo: How attorneys are dealing with backlog of cases due to COVID-19

norfolk circuit court
Posted at 1:46 PM, Jun 03, 2020

NORFOLK, Va- Just as it has on almost every other part of society, Coronavirus is having major impacts on the justice system.

Courts are closed and cases can't be heard, inmates having to wait longer for their trial while behind bars.

"March 16th, we had a court case we were getting ready to try, we had 70 witnesses flying in from across the country," said Criminal Defense Attorney James Broccoletti.

That trial and more than 150 cases Broccoletti was working on had to be paused due to the pandemic.

"There is no talk of having any jury trials any time in the near future," he said.

The wheels of justice says Broccoletti moving slower than ever before. He says only emergency cases have been heard, a ruling by the Supreme Court. Cases like bond hearings, protective orders and juvenile matters.

"Is it going to be like Indy 500, gentlemen start your engines and a mad dash," he said. "How do you even decide which cases go first."

He says he is able to file items electronically with the clerks of court but says right now that does not do much good.

"The families have been patient, but traumatized by the fact we cant get things done," said Broccoletti.

He is taking on very few new clients due to the legal limbo, and the ones he currently works for are hard to meet with especially if they are behind bars.

"In the past we could have contact visits, we can't do that now, only on video or phone and that doesn't help with privacy," he said.

Once the court starts hearing cases he says he is concerned about the new courtroom dynamic.

"If I wear a mask and a witness wears a mask is that confronting your accusser? "How do you pick a juror if they wear a mask, and how do you talk to your client from six feet away," said Broccoletti.

A balancing act between safety and ensuring fair representation for those he serves.

For a full list of how courts are operating in Hampton Roads, click here.