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Coronavirus Shuts Federal Courtrooms in Washington State (1)

March 7, 2020, 12:31 AM

The spread of coronavirus cases in the state of Washington prompted its top federal judge to shut down courtrooms in Seattle and Tacoma.

All civil and criminal matters requiring lawyers and others involved to appear in court were put on hold starting Monday by Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez. So were all grand jury proceedings in the district.

Civil or criminal motions that can be resolved through filing of papers aren’t affected, the judge said. The order will remain in effect until the end of the month, unless it’s changed or rescinded, the judge said. Courts in other parts of the U.S. are also ramping up efforts to limit exposure to the coronavirus.

There have been 50 confirmed cases in King County and 10 people in the district died, Martinez said.

The move by Martinez comes as Washington Governor Jay Inslee declared an emergency on Feb. 29 as his state tries to contain the spread of the virus.

Across the country, the chief judge for federal courts in Manhattan on Friday ordered that all inmates at New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center be screened for body temperatures before they are allowed to appear in court.

A Texas federal judge has asked attorneys and parties in cases on his docket to inform opposing counsel if a trial, hearing, or deposition, requires them to visit countries on the government’s restricted travel list or if they had come in contact with someone infected with or exposed to the coronavirus.

Lawyers should discuss any potential trial delays due to the coronavirus concerns, by video conference when appropriate, before informing the court, U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap said in a March 3 order.

The federal courts in Oakland and San Francisco will continue normal court operations.

“No courthouse incidents have been reported that have prompted court staff to contact the CDC or SF Health Department,” Nicholas Jackson, a spokesman for the court said in an email, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

(Updates with responses at other courts)

To contact the reporter on this story:
Malathi Nayak in San Francisco at

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
David Glovin at
Joe Schneider, Steve Stroth

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.