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COVID-19 Court Operations Update

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Florida continues to monitor the national response to the respiratory illness caused by the novel Coronavirus Disease known as COVID-19. This is a very fluid situation, and the information provided below will be adjusted accordingly.

Please review this page regularly for updates. Updates are indicated within the table of contents section of this page and may also be accessed via RSS feed and GovDelivery. 

 

Operational Status of the Court  (UPDATED 11/16/2021)

  • Open with limited Intake counter hours and drop boxes available to self-represented parties in the Tallahassee and Pensacola courthouse lobbies. Self-represented parties may also file by email (Filings@flnb.uscourts.gov) or fax (850-521-5004), or by mail. Attorneys will continue to file documents through CM/ECF.
     
  • Standard Intake Operating Hours Beginning on 1/3/2022. Given the steady reduction in new COVID-19 cases in Leon and Escambia counties, Clerk’s Office Intake counters in Tallahassee and Pensacola will return to full operating hours (9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. local time Monday through Friday) on Monday, January 3, 2022. This date will be modified if positivity rates increase. 
    • Visitors will still be required to wear a mask while in courthouse lobbies or other public spaces per District Court Order.
    • Visitors are encouraged to reserve counter interactions for emergency matters, questions, and payments. Drop boxes are available inside courthouse lobbies for routine filings. (Clerk’s Office staff cannot provide legal advice.)
    • Filings will still be accepted via email, or fax, or drop box, or by mail. (Please utilize only one submission method to prevent duplicate filings.)
       

 

Courthouse Access (UPDATED 11/16/2021)

  • All Northern District of Florida courthouses are open to the public. Bankruptcy Court Intake counters are currently available Tuesday through Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to noon local time on days when the court is open. Please limit counter visits to emergency matters and payments. Masks are required for vaccinated and unvaccinated employees and customers when in public common areas of the courthouse, including at the Intake counter.  Drop boxes are available in the Tallahassee and Pensacola courthouse lobbies for routine filings that do not require staff assistance. Payments are not accepted via drop box. Click here for drop box hours and additional information. Lobby PACER public access terminals are currently closed. (See Electronic Record Retrieval Options and Copies for additional information.) The Clerk’s Office will also continue to provide service remotely. Court hearings will be conducted remotely unless otherwise noticed. 
     
  • Pursuant to District Court Administrative Order 4:95mc40111 Doc. 388, vaccinated and unvaccinated persons who enter any courthouse within the Northern District of Florida must practice social distancing measures and wear cloth face masks or other face coverings that cover a person’s nose and mouth while in any public or common area within the facility. See the administrative order for exceptions. Courtrooms, witness rooms, jury deliberation rooms, or other similar spaces used in connection with hearings, trials, or other matters before the Court are not considered common or public spaces and are not covered by the administrative order (Doc. 388). Direction regarding social distancing and the requirement to wear cloth face masks in these areas must be obtained from the presiding judge. 
     
  • Any occupant or courthouse visitor who tests positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of entering a courthouse in the Northern District of Florida shall immediately provide notice, directly or through an appropriate representative (e.g., other nonjudiciary federal employer, family member), to the Court so that the Court may follow CDC recommendations. See District Court Order 4:95mc40111 Doc. 365

 

Operational Status of Clerk’s Office Staff  

  • Working Remotely with a skeleton crew in Tallahassee and Pensacola.
  • For assistance, please call 866-639-4615 or visit the Intake counter on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday between 9am and noon local time.
  • Email CMECF_HelpDesk@flnb.uscourts.gov or call 866-639-4615 for CM/ECF assistance.
  • Utilize McVCIS at 866-222-8029 for automated case information. Select 1 for English or 2 for Spanish. Select the Court Code 11 for the Florida Northern Bankruptcy Court.

 

Administrative Orders Related to COVID-19  (UPDATED 11/1/2021)

The following Administrative Orders related to COVID-19 have been entered by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Florida (designated “AO”) and the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida (designated by case number 4:95mc40111):

  • AO 20-003 Dated 3/16/2020: Implementing Procedures for COVID-19 Outbreak (All hearings held telephonically via CourtCall)
  • AO 20-004 Dated 3/17/2020: Regarding Extension of Deadlines in Connection with Postponement of Section 341 Meetings
  • AO 20-005 Dated 3/20/2020: Temporarily Modifying the Means of Filing Pleadings by Self-Represented Parties
  • Amended AO 20-005 Dated 6/19/2020: Temporarily Modifying the Means of Filing Pleadings by Self-Represented Parties and Addressing Clerk’s Office Intake Availability
  • AO 20-006 Dated 3/20/2020: Temporarily Suspending Requirement for Attorneys to Obtain and Retain Original Signatures from Debtors for Electronic Filings
  • AO 20-007 Dated 4/21/2020: Adopting CARES Act ("Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act") Changes to Interim Bankruptcy Rule 1020
  • AO 21-001 Dated 1/27/2021: Procedures for Video and Telephonic Hearings (“Virtual Hearings”). Participants should review the Notice of Hearing or the Court’s website at https://www.flnb.uscourts.gov/zoom for information about how to sign up for the Video Platform test meeting.
  • AO 21-003 Effective 11/1/2021: Implementation of Interim Local Rule 5081-1 and abrogation of Local Rule 1006-1. Refer to the Fees page for acceptable tender types for the payment of fees (e.g., filing fees, certification fees, copy request fees, etc.) to the Clerk of Court.
  • District Court Order 4:95mc40111 (Doc. 343) Closing Courthouses to the Public (with some exceptions)
  • District Court Order 4:95mc40111 (Doc. 359) Reopening Courthouses
  • District Court Order 4:95mc40111 (Doc. 362) Requiring Face Coverings to be Worn in All Public Courthouse Space
  • District Court Order 4:95mc40111 (Doc. 363) Closing the Winston E. Arnow Federal Building until further notice. (Note that the Bankruptcy Clerk's Office is still accepting filings via CM/ECF and, for self-represented parties, fax, email, and mail.)
  • District Court Order 4:95mc40111 (Doc. 364) Reopening the Winston E. Arnow Federal Building in Pensacola, Florida.
  • District Court Order 4:95mc40111 (Doc. 365) re taking proactive measures to slow the spread of the virus and protect the health and safety of Court staff, litigants, counsel, grand jurors, petit jurors, witnesses, and the public and requiring any occupant or courthouse visitor who tests positive for COVID-19 within 14 days of entering a courthouse in the Northern District of Florida, to immediately provide notice, directly or through an appropriate representative (e.g., other nonjudiciary federal employer, family member), to the Court so that the Court may follow CDC recommendations.
  • District Court Order 4:95mc40111 (Doc. 381) Rescinding District Court Order 4:95mc40111 Doc. 362 and stating courthouse entry requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated persons.
  • District Court Order 4:95mc40111 (Doc. 388) Updating Requirement for Face Coverings for Vaccinated and Unvaccinated Persons While in Public Spaces at All Courthouses 

 

Hearings

All hearings will be conducted pursuant to Administrative Order 20-003 and Administrative Order 21-001, unless otherwise directed by the Court. Attorneys shall advise their clients NOT to appear at the courthouse.

 

CourtCall

  • Rates
    • Temporarily reduced for attorneys.
    • Temporarily free for self-represented parties.
    • Visit www.courtcall.com for more information.

 

  • Contact Numbers
    • 866-582-6878 or 888-882-6878

 

  • Reservations
    • Reserve by phone no later than 3:00 p.m. on the business day preceding the date of the hearing.
    • Future appearances should be scheduled by email at Assist@CourtCall.com.

 

Attorney and Self-Represented Party Document Filing Options (UPDATED 11/1/2021)

    Attorneys:

  • Continue to utilize CM/ECF for e-filings and online payments.

 

    Self-Represented Debtors (pursuant to Amended Administrative Order 20-005) use only one of the following options per filing to avoid duplicate filings/cases:

  • U.S. Mail or a commercial mail service (See also Fee Payments);
  • Fax at 850-521-5004 (you must include the area code when dialing);
  • The Tallahassee or Pensacola Intake counter (open Tues. – Thurs. 9am – noon local time for emergency matters, matters otherwise requiring in-person assistance, and payments);
  • Drop Box in Tallahassee or Pensacola (See instructions); or
  • Email at Filings@flnb.uscourts.gov;
     
    • Emailed Documents – Instructions
      • Email Subject Line: Include your Case Number (if assigned) and Name.
      • Email Body Content: In accordance with Amended AO 20-005, the Court will not consider content within the body of the email.
      • Email Attachments: Portable Document Format (PDF) only. Each document emailed for filing must be saved as a separate PDF file. 
      • File Names: Use all or a portion of the document title and the case number (if assigned).  Example: Motion_19-00001.
      • Email Size: The total size of each email to the Court cannot exceed 40 MB, including the email, signature graphics (if applicable), and all attachments. You may send documents to the Clerk’s Office via separate emails if you find that your email size is too large. Be sure to add “Part __ of __” to the email subject line. Example Subject Line: 20-00001 John Doe (Part 1 of 2).
      • Large Files: If a PDF file is very large, you may break the document up into two or more separate PDF files. Please note the part number of the file as part of the file name. Example: Motion_19-00001_Part1of3.pdf.  Files may be sent via multiple emails. See the preceding bullet point for email subject line information.

 

Fee Payments (UPDATED 11/1/2021)

Attorneys:

  • Continue to utilize CM/ECF for online payments.
  • Cash payments are no longer accepted. See Administrative Order 21-003. Consult the Fees page for other acceptable forms of payment.

Self-Represented Parties:

  • Cash payments are no longer accepted. See Administrative Order 21-003. Refer to the Fees page for other acceptable forms of payment.
  • Mail payments in the form of cashier’s checks and money orders to the Tallahassee division at 110 E. Park Ave., Ste. 100, Tallahassee, FL 32301 or make payments at the Tallahassee Intake counter Tues. through Thurs. from 9am – noon EST. Refer to the Fees page regarding debit card payments.
    • ​​​​NOTE: Customers who submit payments in the form of money orders and cashier’s checks at the Pensacola Intake counter will be directed to mail the payment to the Tallahassee division at the address above. Exceptions include barred filers paying past due fees, copy requests, and document certification payments.
  • Payments received in Pensacola by mail will not be processed in the Pensacola Division. All mail received in Pensacola will be forwarded to Tallahassee for processing.
  • Due to limited onsite staffing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, please allow 7-10 days for payments to be posted to your case. Payment processing times will return to normal as soon as possible.
     

Electronic Record Retrieval Options and Copies 

The Court provides computer terminals for public use in the lobbies of each courthouse to access and print case documents and reports via PACER. If you are unable to access this resource due to terminal or courthouse closures or wish to access/print court documents from home, then you are encouraged to register for your own Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) account.  Registration is free, and you can access court records from any type of device with an internet connection. To register:

  • Access PACER at https://www.pacer.gov
  • Click the “Registration” tab at the top of the screen
  • Select the “View” account option
  • Follow onscreen directions

For immediate access to court records through PACER, provide a credit card during the registration process. In the alternative, if you are unable to provide a credit card, an activation code will be sent by U.S. Mail to the address you provide on the registration form. Allow 7-10 business days for mail delivery.

Fees are calculated at a rate of 10 cents per page. For PDF documents, each page of a single PDF document will cost 10 cents until you reach 30 pages ($3.00). Every page after the 30th page for that same document is free. The page count starts over for each PDF document accessed. On-screen reports are charged based on a certain number of lines per page. Refer to the PACER website for details about report and audio recording charges.

No fee is owed for electronic access to court data via PACER until an account holder exceeds a total charge of $30 in a quarterly billing cycle. In addition, access to judicial opinions is always free.

Please Contact Us if you believe you will exceed the $30 per quarter waived (free) PACER fee or need assistance with accessing court records.
 

 

Emergency Filings 

Contact the Clerk’s Office in advance of filing at 866-639-4615, or follow posted drop box instructions.

 

U.S. Trustee Program Updates 

Section 341 Meetings and Chapter 11 Initial Debtor Interviews

The U.S. Trustee Program announced on August 28, 2020 that they have extended the requirement that Section 341 meetings be conducted by telephone or video appearance to all cases filed during the period of the President’s “Proclamation on Declaring a National Emergency Concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Outbreak” issued March 13, 2020, and ending on the date that is 60 days after such declaration terminates.

The U.S. Trustee may approve a request by a trustee in a particular case to continue the Section 341 meeting to an in-person meeting in a manner that complies with local public health guidance, if the U.S. Trustee determines that an in-person examination of the debtor is required to ensure the completeness of the meeting or the protection of estate property. This policy may be revised at the discretion of the Director of the United States Trustee Program.

See the notice located at https://www.justice.gov/ust-regions-r21.

 

U.S. Trustee Program (USTP) Notice Regarding Recovery Rebates Under the CARES Act of 2020 

CLICK HERE to read the USTP Notice re funds received as a result of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act of 2020.
 

 

Existing Resource Reminders (UPDATED 11/1/2021)

Electronic Bankruptcy Noticing (EBN):   Save valuable employee time by eliminating a portion of their paper mail processing duties. EBN allows case participants to receive notices and orders issued by the court electronically. Visit https://bankruptcynotices.uscourts.gov/ for more information and to register for the program.

United States Trustee Program: Visit the U.S. Department of Justice United States Trustee Program (USTP) website for Region 21 at https://www.justice.gov/ust-regions-r21 for information about the trustee program in general, how the CARES Act is being interpreted by the USTP, information about telephonic meetings, and COVID-19 updates.

 

Filing Events and Form for Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 Provisions

Two filing events are available in CM/ECF to accommodate the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) provisions: 

Motion for Discharge per 11 U.S.C. § 1328(i)

  • Movants must submit a proposed order via the Submit Proposed Order hyperlink in CM/ECF. 
  • The proposed order must relate solely to the motion for entry of the discharge and must not contain language discharging the debtor(s).  A separate order discharging the debtor(s) will be issued by the court, if applicable.

Supplemental Proof of Claim for Forbearance Claims

  • New Director’s Form 4100S Supplemental Proof of Claim for CARES Forbearance Claims was approved by the Advisory Committee on Bankruptcy Rules effective 2/5/21 to address temporary amendments to sections 501, 502, and 1329 of the Bankruptcy Code made by the CAA.  You can find this form, as well as all other Official and Director’s Forms on the United States Courts’ website at https://www.uscourts.gov/forms/bankruptcy-forms
  • This filing event will require linking to a previously filed claim and will appear on both the docket and the Claims Register.
  • The form will be retired on December 27, 2021.

These temporary amendments sunset on December 27, 2021, one year from the date the CAA was enacted.

 

 

LSO-9 Local Sample Order Granting Motion for Chapter 11 Discharge is available on the Forms page as of August 20, 2020.

Form Amendments Due to CARES Act: On March 27, 2020, Congress passed, and the President signed into law, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”). Section 1113 of that legislation made several changes to the Bankruptcy Code, most of them temporary, to provide financial assistance during the coronavirus crisis.

The enactment of the CARES Act requires one-year amendments to five official forms to account for a new definition of “debtor” applicable to subchapter V of chapter 11 and a new exclusion from the definitions of “current monthly income” and “disposable income.” Because the Act took effect immediately upon enactment and its bankruptcy provisions are of limited duration, the Advisory Committee on Bankruptcy Rules has exercised the authority delegated to it by the Judicial Conference to make conforming technical changes to five bankruptcy forms (Official Forms 101, 122A-1, 122B, 122C-1, and 201).

Please note:  The new forms are still located on the “Pending Changes in the Bankruptcy Forms” page on the United States Courts website (www.uscourts.gov). They will be moved to the main Bankruptcy Forms page on the uscourts.gov website shortly, as fillable pdfs. 

 

Websites Containing COVID-19 Information and Updates   

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

www.CDC.gov

Florida Department of Health

(Use the “Counties” dropdown menu at the top of the page for county-specific information.)

http://www.floridahealth.gov/

National Institutes of Health https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus