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ANALYSIS: Emerging Trends in Courts’ Reactions to Coronavirus

March 13, 2020, 8:41 PM

The evolving legal landscape in the age of Covid-19, as the disease caused by the new coronavirus is known, has seen a lot of action across the nation’s courts this week. As more courts issue notices, standing orders, and the like to address who may come to court, who should stay home, and what matters will proceed and in what form, there are some trends starting to emerge.

Bloomberg Law is tracking these developments on the In Focus: Coronavirus page. And Bloomberg Law’s state-specific litigation resource pages (click on any state on this map) include links to many of the relevant web pages for federal and state courts across the country.

No-Entry Rules

Multiple courts have restricted access to the courthouse. The Chief Judge of the Southern District of New York issued a March 9 revised notice and standing order proscribing admission to the courthouse for the following:
—people who have traveled to specific countries in the past 14 days;
—people who live or have been in close contact with someone who traveled to the specified countries in the past 14 days;
—people who have been asked to self-quarantine by a doctor, hospital, or health agency;
—people with fever, cough, or shortness of breath (a category that wasn’t in the original March 9 notice); and
—people diagnosed with, or who have had contact with, anyone diagnosed with Covid-19.

On the same day, New York’s Eastern District issued a similar Administrative Order, but didn’t prevent the admission of those with flu symptoms. The Western District followed the Southern District on March 12.

More than a few district courts have taken this approach and issued similar orders or notices.

Like the Eastern District, not all are excluding admission of those with flu symptoms. And, notably, the federal court in Connecticut excludes those who have visited, in the past two weeks, New Rochelle, N.Y. (other than in a car or train), or any locale under quarantine. In addition to the specified countries (like China and Italy) on most courts’ lists of places that people cannot have traveled to in the past two weeks, Maryland’s federal district court has added New Rochelle, the state of Washington, and Egypt to its list.

No Jury Trials for a While

Another trend is to continue or postpone civil and/or criminal jury trials for the time being. This is occurring in both state and federal courts for a range of start and stop dates.

Multiple Notices

There are also multiple jurisdictions that have issued more than one notice to date addressing Covid-19. This trend is expected to continue as courts attempt to address issues ranging from court admissions to whether and how matters proceed.

The good news is that courts are posting these notices more prominently on their home pages, so people don’t have to look too hard for them. It also would be helpful if courts ensured that all notices and updates were dated, especially if they later become superseded.

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