A slew of federal and state courts suspend trials or close for coronavirus threat
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The number of federal and state courts taking steps to thwart transmission of the novel coronavirus continues to grow. More than 25 federal district courts are pausing jury trials, following a trend that is still gaining ground in state courts.
The Administrative Office of U.S. Courts is keeping track of the orders in this chart.
Several federal appellate and trial-level courts are also barring people who don’t have official court business from entering courthouses. Some are asking pro se litigants with documents to leave them in drop boxes rather than enter the clerk’s office.
One federal courthouse in Rome, Georgia, was closed by court order on Tuesday after a court security officer was hospitalized with flu-like symptoms, Courthouse News Service reports. The guard had worked the week before he was hospitalized even though he was feeling ill. Results of a COVID-19 test are pending.
In California’s Northern District, all four federal courthouses were closed to the public, the first mass closing of federal courthouses since the judiciary began its response to the coronavirus threat.
Dozens of states are also pausing trials statewide or restricting court visitors, according to the National Center for State Courts, which is keeping a tally. The organization reported on Tuesday that seven additional states had issued or expanded orders pausing jury trials or restricting court functions in just the last 18 hours.
Those seven states are Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri and Virginia. Other states pausing many jury trials include New York, New Jersey, Florida and Massachusetts.
At the local level, trials have been suspended in several large cities, including Los Angeles County, California, where courts were closing for three days and then reopening for essential matters; Cook County, Illinois, which is pausing new trials; and Washington, D.C., which shut down all proceedings except for those deemed “absolutely essential.”
The Washington, D.C., shutdown order came Wednesday after a deputy U.S. marshal who worked at the superior court tested positive for COVID-19, Law.com reports.
William Raftery, senior analyst with the National Center for State Courts, told the Wall Street Journal and NBC News that the restrictions are unprecedented in their scope. “The only time we’ve heard of anything vaguely like this was after 9/11 or a hurricane, but that was only for a few days,” he told NBC News.
Federal courts that have suspended jury trials include the U.S. District Courts for the Northern District of California, the Southern District of California, the Central District of California, the Eastern District of California, the District of Colorado, the District of Connecticut, the Northern District of Illinois (civil trials suspended), the Southern District of Indiana, the Northern District of Iowa, the Eastern District of Louisiana, the Middle District of Louisiana, the Western District of Louisiana, the District of Maryland, the District of Massachusetts, the District of Minnesota, the Southern District of Mississippi, the District of Nebraska, the District of New Hampshire, the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the Western District of Pennsylvania, the District of Puerto Rico, the Eastern District of Tennessee, the Northern District of Texas, the Southern District of Texas, the Eastern District of Virginia, the Western District of Washington, the Southern District of West Virginia, the Eastern District of Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.
Federal appeals courts that are barring people from the courthouse if they don’t have official court business include the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
Updated on March 18 to include information on the Washington, D.C., superior court.