Post Hurricane María Status of Commonwealth Judiciary

As you all know, the passing of Hurricane Maria last September 20, 2017, caused extreme damages to all components of our society.  The Judiciary is no exception.  Many of the courthouses suffered damage to their physical structures and their respective infrastructure.  Besides water and power interruption in most, if not all courthouses, our judges, court employees, lawyers and court officials have suffered personal devastation as a result, making our recovery slower and more tedious.

The Office of Court Administration implemented a plan to begin island-wide normal court operations by Wednesday, November 1, 2017, at least in the First Instance Courts.  All cases that have court hearings scheduled from that date forward, will be heard on their originally scheduled date.  Regarding the hearings that were suspended because of the hurricane emergency, these will be re-scheduled by the respective courts in due course.

About the prescription deadlines for cases which term expired from September 19 through the duration of the emergency, the Supreme Court had issued a Resolution staying them until further notice.  See In re: Extensión de Términos ante el paso del Huracán María, EM-2017-07.  Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued another Resolution titled In re: Extensión de Términos ante el paso del Huracán María, EM-2017-08, where it set the prescription deadline for those cases.  The new expiration deadline isDecember 1, 2017.  Therefore, every prescriptive term that expired between September 19 and November 30, 2017, inclusive, will now expire on December 1, 2017. See Arts. 388 and 389 of the Political Code of 1902, and 1 LPRA §§ 72 and 73.

To summarize:

October 16 Filing of documents with the Clerks of the Courts can begin
November 1 Courts will resume attending their case calendars at the designated courthouses.
December 1 Prescriptive terms will be reactivated.

Lastly, there are courthouses in some of the Judicial Regions that have been more severely damaged than others.  Because of this, the Supreme Court temporarily relocated these operations to other facilities while their particular situation is resolved.  These changes may entail longer travel time for some attorneys to get to the respective courthouse.  For instance, matters pending in the Judicial Region of Aguadilla will now be heard at the Mayaguez Judicial Center. Those matters pending in Bayamón will be heard at the Caguas Judicial Center.  Finally, regarding those matters pending in Aibonito, these will be heard at either nearby local courthouses or at the Judicial Center of Guayama.  These changes will continue until further notice.