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Federal Courts Respond to Covid-19 (Map: Updated May 13)

March 20, 2020, 9:42 PMUpdated: May 11, 2020, 10:05 PM

The federal courts are tackling the coronavirus threat, making scheduling changes, encouraging electronic filing, and restricting access to facilities, among other measures.

Follow the latest changes in court operations using our interactive map.

Read More: Bloomberg Law is tracking the latest updates about the pandemic on our coronavirus news channel.

Latest Updates

Face Masks Required at Growing Number of Federal Courts
Posted: Wednesday, May 13

Court goers and employees at the Baltimore-based U.S. District Court for Maryland will have to wear a masks or face covering to enter the facilities, Chief Judge James K. Bredar said in a May 13 order. People who show up without a mask will be provided one by the court, he said.

That order follows those of several other courts across the country that have also mandated the wearing of masks or face coverings upon entry to limit the spread of the virus among those who still have businesses there. While many courts have limited public access and moved to remote work arrangements, some proceedings are still taking place in courthouses. Those proceedings sometimes require judges, staff, lawyers and litigants to show up in-person.

Two of the first courts to require face masks were Washington’s federal district court and the D.C. Circuit, which share the same building. Those orders came at the end of April. More have followed in their wake, including the District of Puerto Rico, the Albany-based Northern District of New York, the District of Delaware, and the Southern District of Alabama centered in Mobile.

Coronavirus Jury Preparedness Weighed by Indiana Federal Court
Posted: Tuesday, May 12

An Indianapolis-based federal court is taking the novel coronavirus pandemic into account as it prepares to call jurors into court this summer.

Individuals who receive summonses for grand jury proceedings or jury trials at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana may be excused from service through August 24 if they meet certain criteria related to Covid-19, Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson said in a May 12 order.

Those factors include whether the person is exhibiting coronavirus symptoms, has tested positive, or is quarantined because of exposure to someone who tested positive. Those considered at a high risk of contracting the virus may also be excused from jury service. So too can individuals who have been deemed essential healthcare workers or who are caring for sick family members or dependents.

The court doesn’t expect to restart criminal or civil jury trials until at least July 20, according Magnus-Stinson’s order. Her district includes courthouses in Evansville, Terre Haute and New Albany.

First Circuit Eyeing June for Remote Oral Arguments
Posted: Monday, May 11

The First Circuit plans to hold remote oral arguments in June, though it hasn’t yet made a decision about whether those arguments will be held by phone or video.

The Boston-based court is evaluating the options and is making decision about oral argument on a panel by panel basis, Circuit Executive Susan Goldberg said in an interview. Live public access to the remote proceedings is also being considered, she said.

The appellate court hasn’t held oral arguments since early March. Its March and April cases were submitted on the briefs, Goldberg said. The court canceled the May session before scheduling any cases.

If it court chooses to make those arguments available to the public as they happen, the First Circuit would join the majority of U.S. appellate courts in doing so. So far, 10 of the 13 federal circuit courts and the Supreme Court have made live video or audio of their oral arguments available.

Those courts are the Second Circuit, Fourth Circuit, Fifth Circuit, Seventh Circuit, Eighth Circuit, Ninth Circuit, Tenth Circuit, Eleventh Circuit, D.C. Circuit, and Federal Circuit.

Appeals Courts Add Public Access, SCOTUS Adopts New Procedure
Posted: Tuesday, April 28

More appeals courts are allowing live public access to oral arguments after the Supreme Court made the historic choice decided to allow live audio.

The Denver-based Tenth Circuit said it will test a system for allowing live public access to remote arguments, and the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans said it would allow live audio for several arguments in its May session. Eight other appeals courts have already made live video or audio available in courts, leaving only three that haven’t allowed that access.

While appellate courts have generally kept the same format for their remote oral arguments, the Supreme Court announced April 28 it would adopt a new procedures for its live proceedings where the justices will take turns asking questions, starting with Chief Justice John Roberts, then proceeding in order of seniority. The high court’s first argument-by-phone session will take place May 4.

—With assistance from Christina Brady, Perry Cooper, and Jordan Rubin

(Updates with the latest information from the federal courts.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Madison Alder in Washington at malder@bloomberglaw.com; Jasmine Ye Han in Washington at yhan@bloomberglaw.com; Porter Wells in Washington at pwells@bloomberglaw.com; Patricia Joy in Washington at pJoy@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com; Andrew Harris at aharris@bloomberglaw.com

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