The Finklea Law Firm wanted to reach out and update you on how our office is impacted by courthouse closings and other disruptions caused by the COVID-19 situation.
First, in regard to REAL ESTATE TRANSACTIONS, we have received many calls from folks fearful that the various courthouse closings will cause a complete stoppage in our ability to close real estate transactions. At present, that is not the case. We have been in contact with many of the Clerks of Court/Register of Deeds offices in our area and the general sentiment at this time is that while courthouses will be closed to the public, they will have work-arounds in place to still allow for recording of documents. For example, we spoke late yesterday with Doris Poulos O’Hara, Clerk of Court for Florence County, and she fully understands the impact that a full shutdown would have, and she does not intend to allow that to happen. To be completely transparent with you, I’ll note that could be out of her hands if the Supreme Court were to issue an order requiring a shutdown, but at this time we do not have any indication that is being considered.
The current plan that is in place in Florence and Marion is for a drop box to be established at the courthouse that will allow us to leave items for recording by the courthouse staff. The staff will walk the documents through the process of receiving Tax Assessor approval and return the recorded documents to us as soon as possible. Title abstractors will be encouraged to do as much work as possible online but can make appointments to go to the courthouse. Other counties, such as Darlington, Williamsburg, and Chesterfield have a process for e-recording so the courthouse closings may not be very impactful on our work in those areas. Dillon County still has their records and recording office open and they anticipate having a process similar to Florence/Marion if they close.
There are certainly delays in receiving title work and funding after closing due to these new requirements. That, however, is much better than a complete interruption in workflow.
Second, in regard to CIRCUIT COURT, FAMILY COURT, AND MAGISTRATES COURT, most hearings have been cancelled. Judges are available for emergency type matters and other special circumstances. The Judges are in communication with attorneys and clerks of court, but this side of our practice has almost stopped. We are still conducting mediations and depositions but even some of those are being cancelled. Since almost all pleadings in Circuit Court are now filed electronically, we can still prosecute and move cases along through the litigation and discovery process, but we can’t appear before the Court in the traditional manner. I am pleased to state I have found our clerks of court and judges have worked diligently to be accommodating while also maintaining precautions.
We also wanted to point out measures we are taking in our office to try to keep our families, clients, and community safe but continue work. Those measures, include:
While we want to do our part to keep the economy from shutting down, we certainly do not want to facilitate the spread of this virus. We pray for wisdom on how to handle our business and your legal needs during this time. May we all be granted discretion, patience, protection and safety.