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COVID-19 Court Operations Update

Thursday, March 10, 2022

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  

  • Open with full Intake counter hours, drop boxes, and Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) computer terminals 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. Please choose only one method of filing. Attorneys will continue to file documents through CM/ECF. For assistance, 
    • call 866-639-4615 or visit the Intake counter Monday through Friday between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on days when the Clerk’s Office is open; 
    • email CMECF_HelpDesk@flnb.uscourts.gov for CM/ECF assistance; and/or
    • 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.
       
  • Intake Services. The Tallahassee and Pensacola Intake counters are open to the public Monday through Friday on days when the court is open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. local time. In-person assistance is reserved for emergency filings, asking administrative questions, obtaining certified hard copies of public court records, and payment processing. Routine filings that do not require in-person assistance may be deposited in the lobby drop box.  Click here for drop box instructions. Drop box contents are removed and file-stamped at least twice daily. 
     
  • Lobby PACER public access computer terminals are available for use. However, due to COVID-19 concerns, customers will not receive in-person assistance from Clerk’s Office staff while operating the terminals.  Instead, please visit the Intake counter for assistance. See Electronic Record Retrieval Options and Copies for additional information.
     
  • Court hearings will be conducted remotely unless otherwise noticed. See “Hearings” for more information.
     
  • When visiting the Clerk’s Office, please keep the following in mind: 
    • Customers are encouraged to ask administrative questions by telephone or email. (Clerk’s Office staff cannot provide legal advice.)
    • Filings are still accepted via email, or fax, or drop box, or by mail. Please utilize only one submission method to prevent duplicate filings.

 

Courthouse Access 

  • All Northern District of Florida courthouses are available to the public on days when the courthouses are scheduled to be open. See “Operational Status of the Court” for specific information about Bankruptcy Court operations.    
     
  • Pursuant to District Court Administrative Order 4:95mc40111 Doc. 401, courthouse visitors and employees are not required to wear a face mask. The presiding judge retains discretion to require masks in a court proceeding. Anyone who wishes to wear a mask in a courthouse may continue to do so. 

 

Operational Status of Clerk’s Office Staff  

  • Working onsite and remotely with all services available in Tallahassee and Pensacola except in-person assistance at lobby public access to court electronic records (PACER) computer terminals.
    • For assistance, please call 866-639-4615 or visit the Intake counter Monday through Friday on days when the courthouse is open between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. 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 

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 
  • District Court Order 4:95mc40111 (Doc. 401) Rescinding the mask requirement in District Court Order 4:95mc40111 Doc. 388. Presiding judges retain discretion to require masks to be worn during court proceedings.

 

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.

 

 

Attorney and Self-Represented Party Document Filing Options 

    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 filing methods per document 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 (for emergency filings, matters 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

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 or Pensacola Intake counter during operational hours. Refer to the Fees page regarding debit card 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.
     

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. Do not place emergency filings inside a drop box unless instructed to do so by a member of Clerk’s Office staff.

 

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 6/6/2022)

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.

 

Websites Containing COVID-19 Information and Updates   

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

www.CDC.gov

Florida Department of Health

http://www.floridahealth.gov/

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