As of March 27th, the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, which is the governing body of the Philadelphia Court System, including its criminal court system, has ordered that the filing and disposition of certain criminal matters are deemed to involve "essential functions" of the Court.
For that reason, the Honorable Idee C. Fox, President Judge of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas has directed that the Philadelphia Criminal Court, whenever possible, to consider deciding matters "on the papers" which means that certain criminal cases will be decided without a traditional hearing due to the current health crisis caused by COVID-19 / the Coronavirus.
Specifically, in Philadelphia, Motions to Modify Bail, Motions to Lift Detainers, Motions to Lift Bench Warrants, and Motions for Early Parole have been deemed to be a component of the Court's "essential functions", and may be filed and disposed "on the papers" as specifically explained below. An experienced Philadelphia criminal defense attorney can help a defendant file such motions.
- Each of the above Motion types must be filed online through the Court's Criminal Electronic Filing System.
- A separate motion must be filed for each case, and each type of relief, except for Motions for Early Parole which may list any of Defendant's cases for which Early Parole is requested.
- The Motion shall provide all necessary factual and legal information establishing entitlement to the requested relief. The relief requested must be specifically stated - for example. release from custody due to early parole or a detainer being lifted, a bench warrant being lifted so that a defendant who is wanted does not run the risk of being arrested on the bench warrant while the court system remains closed, and so forth.
- The movant (the defendant's attorney) must notify the Commonwealth (the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office) prior to filing the Motion, and must obtain and attach a letter from the District Attorney's Office setting forth the District Attorney's Office's position on the Motion.
- Upon filing, the Motion will be assigned to the Supervising Judge of the Criminal Section of the Trial Division, the Honorable Leon Tucker, or his designee , regardless of which Court of Common Pleas judge may have been assigned to the case; and to the Honorable Patrick F. Dugan, President Judge of the Municipal Court, or his designee, regardless of which Municipal Court Judge may have been assigned to the case; and
- The assigned Judge will review the legal papers filed and will issue an appropriate order which will be served on the parties by the Office of Judicial Records either through the Electronic Filing System or otherwise.
Although not included in Judge Fox's order as it was the decision of Judge Leon Tucker, the following Philadelphia judges will be hearing the above-referenced "expedited criminal motions" which are to be filed electronically and decided "on the papers":
Judge Zac Schaffer, Lucretia Clemmons and Kai Scott will hear all eFiled Petitions for Early Parole and the Honorable Donna Woelpper will hear all eFiled Detainer and Bail Motions.
Update as of April 2nd: Judge Leon Tucker, the Supervising Judge of the Criminal section of the Trial Division of the Philadelphia Court System, made the following changes to the judges who will be hearing requests for emergency relief: Judge Glenn Bronson and Judge Robert Coleman will be hearing detainer and bail matters and Municipal Court President Judge Patrick Dugan will be hearing bench warrant matters.
Philadelphia Criminal Defense Attorney to Help Inmate Because of COVID-19 / the Coronavirus
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped countless clients in Philadelphia over the years with motions involving requests for relief such as lifting detainers, requesting lower bail, being granted early parole, and also helping clients address bench warrants due to criminal charges or probation issues.
When a family member or loved one is in jail or prison, it is obviously a challenging time for all involved. What is a challenging time under the best of circumstances is even more concerning due to the current health crisis and having your voice heard is not only critical, but it can be a matter of life or death. Contact Joseph D. Lento today at 215-535-5353.