The federal courts are tackling the coronavirus threat, making scheduling changes, encouraging electronic filing, and restricting access to facilities, among other measures.
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Seventh Circuit to Stick With Live Streaming Indefinitely
Posted: Oct. 13, 2021
The Seventh Circuit will keep live-streamed audio of oral arguments available to the public indefinitely after the measure was first implemented during the pandemic.
The court voted to “retain livestreaming to increase the visibility and accessibility of the court’s business,” according to a statement posted to the court’s website Oct.12.
Prior to the pandemic, just a handful of courts offered live streaming for oral arguments, but amid the virus all 13 federal appeals courts have offered live streaming options.
Circuit Courts Split on In-Person Return
Posted: Sept. 22, 2021
Federal appeals courts are proceeding on divergent timelines as they grapple with when to return to in-person oral arguments.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit—based in Cincinnati—announced that its October arguments will be in-person. Only attorneys showing “good cause” will be allowed to argue remotely. Unvaccinated attorneys are allowed to argue in-person but must remain masked and socially distanced.
The Boston-based First Circuit took a different approach, announcing that all of its October arguments will be held virtually over video conference.
Meanwhile, two additional federal district courts announced that all employees must submit proof of Covid-19 vaccination: the Southern District of Ohio and the Middle District of Louisiana.
The Southern District of Ohio didn’t specify when the vaccine requirement would go into effect but said in its order that religious and medical exemptions will be allowed, along with the option to submit to twice-a-week Covid testing.
The Middle District of Louisiana’s order didn’t allow for a test-out option but will permit medical and religious exemptions. Its order goes into effect Oct. 29.
Trial activity and in-person hearings in the Middle District of Louisiana fell by more than 75% since the beginning of the pandemic, the court said in its order. It also disclosed that the remaining in-person activity has required a “more than three-fold” increase in resources to accommodate health and safety measures.
Court Works on Remote Intake, Court Proceeding Kiosks
Posted: Sept. 16, 2021
The Northern District of New York is taking two new initiatives inspired by operations during the pandemic.
The court is setting up a system for the public to schedule and conduct meetings with court personnel remotely over Microsoft Teams, with the goal of mimicking the experience at the court’s intake counter.
“This system aims to add a personal touch that cannot be achieved with a phone call,” the court said on Monday.
Meanwhile, the court is installing kiosks in local detention facilities to facilitate remote court proceedings, interviews, and attorney-client meetings. The kiosks will also enable documents to be signed in real-time, the court said.
Alaska Trial Court Suspends Jury Trials Amid Covid Spike
Posted: Sept. 9, 2021
The District of Alaska said it would suspend criminal and civil jury trials until Oct. 4 in light of a high number of new Covid-19 cases in the state.
The court cited a rate of more than 100 cases per 100,000 people in the state and said hospitals were operating at near capacity in a Sept. 7 order announcing the suspension.
“The Court must balance public health and safety with its duty to protect litigants’ rights and to resolve cases,” the court said. “COVID-19, and particularly the Delta variant, has spread rapidly in Alaska and throughout the United States during the past several weeks.”
Their order comes as district courts across the country readjust their procedures amid the spread of the more transmissible delta variant.
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