Title 201—RULES OF
[ 201 PA. CODE CH. 19 ]
Proposed Amendments of Pa.R.J.A. Nos. 1950—1952 and 1954
[50 Pa.B. 5834]
[Saturday, October 24, 2020]
The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts (AOPC) is considering proposing to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania amendments to Pennsylvania Rules of Judicial Administration 1950-52 and 1954 that require a judicial district to establish an emergency action plan for each court facility, restructure local court security committees so that the president judge, or designee, is the chair, and direct that a judicial district's local court security committee meet at least twice per year. The proposed amendments include other minor, non-substantive revisions.
The proposed amendments were originally recommended by the Magisterial District Court Security Task Group in its August 2020 report, posted on the UJS website at www.pacourts.us. The Task Group was charged with reviewing the current security posture of magisterial district courts and providing recommendations on improving court safety for the public, court staff and judges.
Proposed new material is bolded and underlined, and deleted material is in brackets and bolded.
All interested persons are invited to submit comments, suggestions, or objections in writing to:
Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts
ATTN: Office of the Court Administrator
601 Commonwealth Avenue
P.O. Box 1500
Harrisburg, PA 17106
All communications in reference to the proposal should be received by November 23, 2020.
Court Administrator of Pennsylvania
TITLE 201. RULES OF JUDICIAL ADMINISTRATION
CHAPTER 19. MISCELLANEOUS ADMINISTRATIVE PROVISIONS
CONTINUITY OF OPERATIONS, EMERGENCY ACTIONS, EMERGENCY UNITS AND JUDICIAL SECURITY
Rule 1950. Definitions.
[Emergency—An emergency is an event or events that causes or threatens the destruction or partial destruction of court facilities, significantly interrupts the performance of court operations, or poses a threat to the health or safety of court personnel, court users or the public.]
Continuity of Operations—Continuity of operations is the process, during and following an emergency, by which a court maintains at least minimum levels of service.
Court Facility—Court facility includes the courtrooms, judicial chambers, witness rooms, jury deliberation rooms, attorney conference rooms, court administrative offices and any other office or space under the control of or supervised by the judiciary.
Emergency—An emergency is an event or events that causes or threatens the destruction or partial destruction of court facilities, significantly interrupts the performance of court operations, or poses a threat to the health or safety of court personnel, court users or the public.
President Judge—For the purposes of these Rules, ''president judge'' refers to the president judge of the judicial district.
Security Incident—A security incident is an event that has the potential to cause, or has in fact caused, personal injury or property damage or has caused significant interruption of the performance of court operations.
Official Note: See also definitions in Pa.R.J.A. No. 102.
Rule 1951. Continuity of operations and emergency planning.
(a) Responsibility for Continuity of Operations and Emergency Planning.
(1) The Court Administrator shall establish minimum standards and procedures for continuity of operations and other emergency plans. The standards shall include procedures for periodic review, including the procedures for conducting exercises to ensure the efficacy of the plan.
(2) The president judge has primary responsibility for planning for the continuity of operations in the event of an emergency, and for implementing such plans in his or her judicial district.
Official Note: See also Pa.R.J.A. No. 1954.
(b) Continuity of Operations Plans.
(1) Pursuant to the standards and procedures established by the Court Administrator in Rule 1951(A)(1), the president judge, in conjunction with the district court administrator, the local court security committee, and any other relevant individuals designated by the president judge shall, in consultation with county emergency service agencies and other governmental entities, develop a plan to provide for the continuity of court operations during and following the occurrence of an emergency.
(2) The continuity of operations plan shall provide for the continuation or immediate resumption of court business by the most expeditious and practical means possible, consistent with continuity of operations standards as established by the Court Administrator.
(3) The president judge shall be responsible for ensuring that the continuity of operations plan is accurate and updated as needed.
(4) On an annual basis, the president judge shall review the continuity of operations plan in consultation with the local court security committee and shall certify on a form prescribed by the Court Administrator that the review has taken place and that the plan is accurate and meets the requirements established by the Court Administrator.
(c) Emergency Action Plans.
(1) Pursuant to the standards and procedures established by the Court Administrator in Rule 1951(A)(1), in conjunction with the district court administrator, the local court security committee, county emergency service agencies and any other relevant parties, the president judge shall develop an emergency action plan for each court facility located in the judicial district to use in response to, during, and immediately following the occurrence of an emergency.
(2) On an annual basis, the president judge shall review the judicial district's emergency action plans and shall certify in a form prescribed by the Court Administrator that the review has taken place, the plans are accurate, the plans meet the requirements established by the Court Administrator, and the relevant plans have been disseminated to all district court employees under the purview of the president judge.
Fires. Floods. Hurricanes, earthquakes and tornados. Terrorist attacks. Pandemics. Nuclear and biohazardous accidents (and attacks). The experiences from other states and countries around the world have shown that if any of these events should occur in Pennsylvania, the results could be catastrophic.
[State and local governments, and in particular chief judges and court administrators, have learned from the experiences of governments in places where natural and human-made disasters have occurred, for example: the state and city of New York in the aftermath of the 2001 terrorist attacks; the city of Toronto in Canada's Ontario Province after the 2003 SARS outbreak; the Gulf Coast states, such as Louisiana and Florida in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and other devastating storms; and California, among other states, coping with calamitous wildfires and earthquakes. One lesson learned is that many of the difficulties citizens face during and after an emergency or disaster can be ameliorated if the court system is operational and providing at least its essential functions.]
In an attempt to plan and prepare for a wide variety of emergencies that could [strike] occur in Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court has adopted new Rules of Judicial Administration Nos. 1950—1954. Rules 1951—1953[,] are designed to become operational only in the event of a significant emergency that causes or threatens the dis-ruption of court operations[, were derived in part from ''judicial emergency'' rules and statutes developed in other states such as Florida, California and Louisiana]. The Rules specify that the primary author-ity and responsibility for continuing court operations rests with the Supreme Court and with the president judges of Pennsylvania's 60 judicial districts. Rule 1954 consolidates judicial security practices and directives developed over the past several years.
[Rule 1951 formalizes the requirement that each judicial district in Pennsylvania develop and practice emergency and continuity of operations plans. Under this Rule, the Court Administrator of Penn-sylvania is responsible for establishing standards and procedures for emergency and continuity of operations plans, and the president judges of Pennsylvania's judicial districts, with the assistance of the district court administrators, are responsible for developing plans for their respective judicial districts. Continuity of operations plans must provide for the continuation or immediate resumption of court business—or at least essential functions—during and immediately following an emergency. The Rule calls for these plans to be reviewed and updated annually.]
Courts have expectations of the people who serve the court to respond appropriately in the event of an emergency, natural or man-made. These emergencies come in several forms, such as fire, weather-related events such as tornado or flash flood, toxic chemical discharges that affect air quality, and active shooter events, to name a few. These emergency action plans should contain escape routes, secure locations of assembly for staff, and notification and communication protocols that mirror those already included in the continuity of operations plan. These plans should contain a series of expectations courts have to best ensure the safety and security of staff and customers of the court in the event of an emergency. In order for courts to quickly reconstitute business and operations, staff must be readily available through comprehensive alert and notification protocols, as well as evacuation from any and all danger zones to safely assemble in a secure location.
Rule 1952. Emergency actions, duties and authorities.
(a) Role of Supreme Court
(1) In the event of an emergency that affects court operations in the Commonwealth or in one or more judicial districts, the Supreme Court shall have the authority to declare a judicial emergency generally or in any judicial district affected by the emergency.
(2) By the declaration of a judicial emergency, the Supreme Court may:
(A) suspend or modify statewide or local procedural or administrative court rules;
(B) suspend time calculations for the purposes of time computation relevant to court cases or other judicial business;
(C) direct a court to sit in a location other than its normal place of operations, including outside of its judicial district;
(D) assign judges or court personnel from outside the affected judicial district;
(E) authorize additional uses of advanced communication technology to conduct court proceedings;
(F) take any action listed in Rule 1952(B)(2)(a)—(r) for an individual or multiple judicial districts; and
(G) take any other necessary administrative action regarding judicial staff, court facilities and operations.
Official Note: See also Pa.R.J.A. No. 1952(B)(2) for actions a president judge may take once a judicial emergency has been declared.
See Pa.R.Crim.P. 103 for the definition of advanced communication technology.
See Pa.R.Crim.P. 118 and 119 for general rules governing the use of two-way simultaneous audio-visual communications in criminal proceedings.
(b) Role of the President Judge
(1) In the event of an emergency, the president judge may request authorization from the Supreme Court to declare a judicial emergency in the judicial district. Such declaration shall remain in effect until such time as it is amended, rescinded, modified or superseded by order of the Supreme Court.
(2) If the Supreme Court authorizes the president judge to declare a judicial emergency in the judicial district, and unless limited by the Supreme Court, the president judge shall have the authority to:
(A) order the closure of court facilities until safe operations of the court and its offices can be restored;
(B) order the evacuation of court facilities;
Official Note: Ordering the evacuation of court facilities, when practical under the circumstances, should occur after consultation with members of the local [standing] court security committee, established under Rule of Judicial Administration No. 1954(A), and relevant law enforcement agencies.
(C) direct the relocation of court operations to safe locations;
(D) take necessary action to provide for (i) the safety of court personnel, court users and the public, and (ii) the security of court facilities, financial and cash operations, equipment and records;
(E) establish a telephone hotline or web site to provide the bench, bar and the public with court and emergency information;
(F) reassign judges or court personnel within the judicial district as needed to ensure the continuation of operations;
Official Note: See also Rule of Judicial Administration No. 1953 for requests for additional judges from within the Emergency Regional Administrative Unit.
(G) expand the duties and work hours of staff to handle emergency matters;
(H) cancel or modify court calendars, subpoenas or other court orders;
(I) cancel or suspend jury and non-jury trials;
(J) cancel or suspend jury duty;
(K) suspend or modify local rules of court and administrative rules or procedures, including personnel policies;
(L) suspend or modify the time requirements and limitations established by local rule;
(M) make application to the Supreme Court to temporarily suspend or modify statewide court rules as applied to any case or cases in the judicial district;
(N) provide for alternative signing, delivery and service of court documents and orders;
(O) extend the duration of any emergency or temporary order (for example, protection from abuse order) issued by a judge or magisterial district judge in the judicial district;
(P) assign custodial responsibility for court funds;
(Q) ensure compliance with any Federal, State or local emergency declarations;
(R) order the full or partial implementation of the continuity of operations plan established pursuant to Rule of Judicial Administration No. 1951; and
(S) request additional emergency judicial orders from the Supreme Court as the needs of justice require.
* * * * *
Rule 1954. Judicial security.
(a) The president judge of each judicial district shall establish a local [standing] court security committee that shall meet at least twice per year. The president judge or designee shall chair the local court security committee. The duties of the local [standing] court security committee shall be to:
(1) develop, review and make recommendations to the president judge on protocols, policies and procedures necessary to protect the public, court personnel and court facilities in the event of an emergency, including the continuity of operations plan and emergency action plans;
(2) communicate the approved protocols, policies and procedures identified in [Rule of Judicial Administration No. 1954(A)(1)] paragraph (1) to all court employees;
(3) review and assess [all] the judicial district's security incident reports specified in [Rule of Judicial Administration No. 1954(B)] subdivision (B) and recommend to the president judge appropriate actions; and
(4) develop and recommend to the president judge training programs for court employees on safety and security awareness.
Official Note: When forming local [standing] court security committees, president judges should consider a variety of court and county employees as well as public officials whose positions, experience and authority would benefit court security decisions. At a minimum, the president judge shall include a member of the county executive branch, the district court admin-istrator and a magisterial district judge. While not an exhaustive list, the president judge also may consider [a member of the county executive branch, the district court administrator, a magisterial district judge,] including: an individual responsible for county and court records, an individual responsible for court-house security, a courthouse facility or risk manager, representatives of the other county offices housed in the court facility, a representative from the county information technology office, and a member of county or local law enforcement.
(b) The president judge shall ensure that all reporting requirements of the Pennsylvania Judicial Incident Reporting System (''PAJIRS'') are completed by the district court administrator or his or her designee no later than the close of business on the day that any reportable action occurs.
(c) The president judge shall ensure the completion of court facility security assessments as identified in the Unified Judicial System Court Safety and Security Manual and as prescribed by the Court Administrator.
(d) The president judge shall establish court security protocols, policies and procedures to be implemented in the event of an emergency, including, but not limited to: fire, natural disaster, ''white powder'' or other human-made emergency or disaster, and escaped prisoner and hostage situations. The president judge shall ensure that all employees receive training on how and when to implement such protocols, policies and procedures. All policies and procedures identified in this Rule shall be reviewed and updated annually.
Rule 1954 addresses court security and formalizes the creation of local [standing] court security committees. These committees, which have existed in every judicial district since at least 2005, are appointed by the president judges. They make recommendations to the president judge on protocols, policies and procedures which should be implemented to protect the public, court personnel and court facilities in the event of an emergency, and the president judge must establish such security protocols, policies and procedures for the judicial district. In addition, each local [standing] court security committee is charged with reviewing court security incident reports collected through PAJIRS, which was implemented in 2005 for magisterial district courts and 2007 for common pleas courts, and making appropriate recommendations to the president judge based on those reports. Finally, Rule 1954 directs the president judges of Pennsylvania's judicial districts to complete and annually update court facility security assessments.
It is hoped that [a significant natural or man-made emergency never impacts Pennsylvania. However,] through the framework provided in Rules 1950—1954[, should an emergency occur,] the Pennsylvania [Courts] courts will be prepared to provide at least minimum services, including all essential court functions, both during and after the emergency, to better protect and serve Pennsylvania's citizens, should an emergency occur.
[Pa.B. Doc. No. 20-1441. Filed for public inspection October 23, 2020, 9:00 a.m.]
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