To date, the Texas Supreme Court has issued thirteen emergency orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These orders have helped provide stability and set affected parties’ expectations about court proceedings and issues like child custody, evictions, garnishments, and attorney discipline during this unprecedented time.
But some confusion about court deadlines has persisted.
The first emergency order allowed (but did not require) judges to extend the statute of limitations in civil cases. After a coalition of bar leaders pointed out problems with the order’s permissive language, the Court amended it to state that “[a]ny deadline for the filing or service of any civil case is tolled from March 13, 2020 until June 1, 2020 unless extended.”
The amendment created a uniform rule, but questions arose about its breadth and whether the tolling period included deadlines other than statutes of limitations, such as due dates for filing postjudgment motions (which affect appellate jurisdiction), notices of appeal, and appellate briefs.
To help address this question, I recently released this short video, in which I concluded that the answer is “No.” The amended order only extended statutes of limitations for filing and serving civil suits, not any other deadlines.
Since then, the Supreme Court confirmed my conclusion when it amended the language again. This time, the Court said:
Any deadline for the filing or service of any civil case that falls on a day between March 13, 2020, and June 1, 2020, is extended until July 15, 2020. This does not include deadlines for perfecting appeal or for other appellate proceedings, requests for relief from which should be directed to the court involved and should be generously granted.
The Texas Supreme Court’s emergency orders do not automatically extend any appellate deadlines. Litigants will need to timely file postjudgment motions under the ordinary procedural rules. The deadlines for filing a notice of appeal and appellate briefs can be extended by filing extension motions in the appropriate court.