In an announcement on Friday, June 19 the Tax Court stated that it will start receiving mail from the postal service and private delivery services on July 10. It also stated “The building remains closed to the public, and until further notice, documents may not be hand-delivered.” We wrote a short post about it here.
Today, the Tax Court issued another announcement. In today’s announcement the Tax Court stated that beginning on July 10, the same day the avalanche of mail rolls in, the Clerk’s office will also accept hand-delivered documents. Today’s announcement does not specifically say that the Tax Court building is open but unless the Clerk’s office is accepting curbside service of the hand-delivered mail, it seems that the building will at least be open for people to walk through the ground level corridor from the security check point to the Clerk’s docket room about 150 down the hall to the left.
In yesterday’s post I wondered whether opening the Clerk’s office for receipt of mail from the postal service and private delivery services coupled with the Clerk’s office answering the phone and providing copies of court document to non-parties was enough to stop the suspension of time under the Court’s decision in Guralnik. To the extent that was an open question yesterday because of the sentence quoted above regarding the building being closed and documents not available for hand delivery, today’s announcement seems to answer that question. I would not want to rely on Guralnik when the Clerk’s office is accepting mail from the postal service, accepting mail from people making hand deliveries and responding to phone calls.
When the Tax Court building is fully open, it is possible to go to Clerk’s office and use the two computers available to the public to look up information about cases in which you are not a party. I do not get the sense that today’s announcement opens access to those machines; however, using those machines has nothing to do with filing a petition. It seems the Court has removed any potential argument someone might have that a barrier exists to filing a petition. Barring a snow storm in July in Washington, DC or some other cataclysmic event that keeps people and delivery services from accessing the Clerk’s office, starting July 10 taxpayers should consider that the application of FRCP 6 adopted in Guralnik to extend the time to file is no longer at play as a result of the pandemic.
As a short aside regarding access to documents, I have not tried the new system the Tax Court announced on May 29, 2020 which I discussed in an earlier post here. For the reasons discussed in the prior post, the new system creates a vast improvement over the old in boththe delivery mechanism and the cost. I received a message today from Patrick Thomas that he tried the new system and it was taking a long time to receive call backs. I think it’s hard to gauge the effectiveness of the system under the current circumstances which must be quite trying for those working in the Clerk’s office, but we welcome comments from individuals using the new system about your experience in obtaining documents from the Court.