A chaotic time for criminal defense attorneys as Pennsylvania closes its courts

By KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Pennsylvania courts are now all closed, with very few emergency hearings continuing. It’s a chaotic time for criminal defense attorneys who are scrambling to help their clients while also having their offices shut down. 

State courts are closed at least until April 3, with only emergency hearings, such as detainer motions and temporary restraining orders, being considered by judges.

Criminal defense attorneys Michael Diamondstein and Eileen Hurley are now trying to figure out what to do for their incarcerated clients as prisons are closed to visitors.

“A number of individuals who are facing very serious cases but are innocent have had great difficulty accepting the fact they have to spend more time in jail because the courts have closed,” said Diamondstein.

“I can’t go see a lot of them, and if their family members don't call me, I really have a hard time getting in touch with them to tell them what’s going on. I have been sending out letters,” Hurley explained. 

Those in prison have a restricted list of people they can call. 

“My only other concern is for my incarcerated clients if there is a breakout in the prison, how they are going to handle that, and if I need to file an emergency petition to get somebody out for medical care, will I be able to get notified in time,” Hurley added. 

Advocate groups are also pushing the state’s health department to come up with new guidelines for the courts on how to handle the those who are incarcerated if the pandemic infiltrates the prisons.

The online e-filing system, where all court documents are filed, has been spotty, likely due to overuse.