The Pennsylvania Supreme Court entered an emergency COVID-19-related order on March 24, 2020 – copy here – that should be of interest to our clients who engage in removal before service (so-called “snap removal”). As we reported at the time, the Third Circuit upheld removal before service in Encompass Insurance Co. v. Stone Mansion Restaurant, Inc., 902 F.3d 147 (3d Cir. 2018), which means many of our clients are no doubt monitoring the electronic dockets of various Pennsylvania courts of common pleas for new filings.
For the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, there’s now someplace else that our clients need to monitor – the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. As provided by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s order:
In the event a court of common pleas is unable to accommodate the filing of a praecipe for a writ of summons, attorneys may file a praecipe for a writ of summons in the Superior Court district corresponding to the applicable court of common pleas, pursuant to the miscellaneous filing procedure set forth in the Superior Court’s Order dated March 23, 2020, Superior Court Administrative Docket No. 3. The filing in the Superior Court must be accompanied by the filing attorney’s certification that the attorney has been unable to file the praecipe in the appropriate court of common pleas due to the closure of that court to such filings in light of the ongoing public health emergency, and that in the attorney’s opinion, filing of the praecipe for a writ of summons is necessary to toll a statute of limitations that would otherwise expire during the judicial emergency declared by this Court, or any extension of that judicial emergency.
(Emphasis added). The 3/23/20 Superior Court order referenced by the Supreme Court is here. Philadelphia is located in the Superior Court’s Eastern District.
We have two observations. First, in order to track new filings, clients will now need also to monitor activity on the Pennsylvania Superior Court’s docket. We don’t know exactly how to do that on an ongoing basis, but the vendors currently providing such services should. All we know is that Superior Court dockets are publicly available through this link. Change the default “search type” to “court name,” then choose “Superior Court,” and search that court’s electronic docket by party name.
Second, the Supreme Court has specified what has to be included in the attorney certifications authorized under its order: (1) inability to file, and (2) that the filing is necessary to toll an imminently expiring statute of limitations. Clients should therefore examine all such filings against them for compliance with the Supreme Court’s order, because an insufficient attorney certification should fail to toll the statute of limitations, providing grounds later to seek dismissal.