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Afternoon Briefs: Federal courts have reopening plan; billable hours cited in mental health survey

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Local conditions will guide federal courts in reopening during COVID-19 crisis

Guidelines for the reopening of federal court operations during the novel coronavirus crisis emphasize local decision-making guided by community conditions and data from health officials. Courts would progress through four reopening phases at their own pace, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts said Monday. Most courts are in the first phase, in which courthouse are closed to the public, most employees are teleworking, and all but necessary proceedings are postponed. (U.S. Courts press release)

Billable hours contribute to mental health issues, survey says

Many lawyers doubt law firms will ever address the causes of poor mental health, according to ALM’s recent Mental Health and Substance Abuse Survey, conducted late last year. Asked what changes are needed to address mental health concerns, lawyers said law firms should stop the emphasis on billable hours, which creates long days and discourages vacations. Many also said clients imposed unrealistic deadlines while demanding cheaper and better services. (The American Lawyer)

No charges filed in killing of black man running in white neighborhood

A state-appointed prosecutor in Georgia is considering whether to ask a grand jury to review the killing of a black man who was shot Feb. 23 while running through a mostly white neighborhood in Brunswick. The prosecutor who initially reviewed the case said the killing of Ahmaud Arbery was self-defense because it occurred during a struggle over a gun. The alleged shooter and his father had armed themselves and followed Arbery because they thought that he fit the description of a burglary suspect. The initial prosecutor said the father and son were acting in accord with Georgia’s citizens arrest statute. (The New York Times via the Marshall Project, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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