Coronavirus: The Latest Court Closures And Restrictions
By Sarah Jarvis
Law360 (March 12, 2020, 11:19 PM EDT) — As courts across the country take measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, some are restricting access and altering their procedures. Here is a roundup of changes.
This list will be updated continually with new information.
FEDERAL APPEALS COURTS
U.S. Supreme Court
The high court postponed oral arguments scheduled for this month’s session running March 23 to March 25 and March 30 to April 1. The court closed to tourists on March 12 until further notice, but the building will remain open for official business.
Federal Circuit Court of Appeals
The public is prohibited from entering the National Courts Building complex unless preauthorized by court staff and only as necessary to conduct or support essential court functions, effective March 16. On scheduled argument and hearing days, only arguing counsel, parties with a scheduled in-person hearing and credentialed members of the press will be permitted in the National Courts Building.
Those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or had possible exposure to the virus are prohibited from entering the courthouse.
The court said March 12 that some cases scheduled for the April 2020 sitting are being removed from the argument calendar and will be submitted on the briefs.
For cases still on the calendar, the court said that if counsel for either party is located outside the Washington, D.C., area, the argument will be conducted by telephone conference at the same date and time it was originally scheduled. For cases involving all-local counsel, the court plans to proceed with in-person argument as previously scheduled, noting that parties in all cases will be notified individually on how the court plans to proceed in their case.
D.C. Court of Appeals
The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit is limiting access to its courthouse to “judges, court staff, members of the media, and visitors with official business with the courts,” effective Friday.
The court asked that those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, have had contact with someone who has been diagnosed, been asked to self-quarantine or are experiencing flu-like symptoms not enter the courthouse.
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
The Ninth Circuit has canceled its en banc hearings and all noncase-related meetings scheduled for the week of March 9. At the discretion of the three-judge panels, there may be additional cancellations the following week as well.
All scheduled oral argument hearings in all locations will proceed unless an order is issued otherwise in a specific case, the court said. Those who wish to appear remotely for any hearing may file a motion to do so.
FEDERAL DISTRICT COURTS AND STATE COURTS
In Alaska’s state court system, jury trials that were scheduled to begin the week of March 16 in Palmer, Kenai and Anchorage are canceled. The court is encouraging those with symptoms or possible exposure not to come to any state courthouses.
The District of Arizona is asking those who recently traveled from an area with widespread COVID-19 — and those who are exhibiting symptoms of the virus — not to visit its courthouse.
The Central District of California is urging those required to appear in court, including jurors, to contact the court before appearing if they are experiencing any flu-like symptoms. The court said it will make reasonable accommodations and reschedule proceedings as needed.
The Eastern District of California is prohibiting anyone who visited China, South Korea, Japan, Italy or Iran in the past two weeks from visiting any district courthouse. The restriction also applies to those who have had close contact with someone who has visited those countries in the past two weeks, those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have been in contact with someone who has been diagnosed, those who have been asked to self-quarantine and those experiencing fever, cough or shortness of breath.
The Northern District of California is urging anyone with symptoms of the virus not to appear in court. The district said individual judges may change their courtroom procedures or provide accommodations where appropriate.
The Southern District of California said there are currently no changes to normal court operations, but urged anyone experiencing flu-like symptoms, coughing, sneezing or fever to contact the court before appearing.
In the state court system, the Los Angeles County Superior Court recommended to all judges that new civil jury trials be postponed for at least 30 days starting March 16. All preference jury trials, where a party’s age or health necessitates an earlier trial date, are postponed at least 15 days.
New jury panel requests over the next 30 days will also be limited.
Contra Costa County Superior Court will close starting March 16 and reopen April 1.
The San Francisco Superior Court has postponed civil jury trials for 90 days from the date they had been scheduled. Exceptions to that restriction are preference cases and trials already in progress. All in-person visits related to guardianship and conservatorship are postponed until April 15. In the Unified Family Court, matters will be delayed by agreement of the parties or at the discretion of the Court. Those experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should not come into court
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