The streets of Rome are eerily silent now as the country waits for news daily from the Protezione Civile hoping for reassurance that the numbers of those affected by the epidemic are starting to decrease.
Now three weeks into the lock-down of Italy, this article updates our previous article of 9th March to take into account the constant stream of new government guidelines and emergency legislation in relation to legal services.
It is business as usual for many key workers in essential industries in Italy, thanks to new innovative ways of home working, video conferencing and digital offices. Lawyers, accountants and Notaries have all reduced their services but our offices have not been closed down.
The Decreto “Cura Italia” (DPCM 22 marzo 2020) signed by the Prime Minister on 22nd March 2020 attached a list of those activities considered to be essential, including “attività legali e contabili” (this list was updated on 25th March 2020 for other categories including call centres).
There is some obvious unexpected upheaval at this firm of course, and we are assessing on a daily basis, and case by case, how we should advise our clients to proceed with any ongoing matter we are assisting with.
We will be in contact individually with any person who risks the progress of their case being affected or delayed or who may have a court hearing fixed in this period.
We are still able to authenticate signatures or certify copies of documents in urgent situations without face-to-face meetings with clients, in order to keep us all safe and respect the social distancing measures, by using video conference, local pony express services and DHL.
Litigation and Court hearings
As of 8th March 2020 the normal functioning of the Italian courts was “suspended” and all hearings (not regarded to be special categories) fixed in this period, whether in the civil, criminal, tax or administrative courts, were to be adjourned (“rinviati d’ufficio“) and new dates assigned.
The first suspension was ordered to last for a “cushion period” from 9th to 22nd March, see full text below as published in the Gazzetta Ufficiale: Decreto Legge n. 11 8th March 2020.
This period has now been extended to 15th April 2020, which means that all hearings fixed between now and then will be adjourned (with some exceptions – see below).
This further extension was announced in Article 83 of D.L. 17th March 2020 n. 18. New dates will be sent to the parties’ lawyers via “processo telematico”.
Some categories of hearing are still being held, although in most cases by video link, including those concerning, for example: convalidation of criminal charges, guardianship orders, minors and maintenance claims, but in only where the hearing absolutely cannot be adjourned, as set out in Article 10 of this decree: Decreto Legge 2nd March 2020 n. 9.
Deadlines (for example the period by which a defence must be entered or pleadings lodged) are also suspended up to 15th April as they would normally be over the “suspensione feriale” during the summer break.
These decrees made in early March provided for a second phase of “suspension” from 23rd March up to 31st May 2020, the organisation of which would be studied and clarified between the Ministry of Justice and the Health Ministry during the first phase depending on the evolution of the epidemic. It is therefore possible that further extensions will be made to court proceedings after the current date of 15th April.