Federal appeals courts go remote amid COVID-19 surge

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Several federal appeals courts are starting the new year with changes in their operations amid the ongoing surge in COVID-19 infections.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at New Orleans announced on its website last week that its courthouse would close to the public beginning Monday, Reuters reports. Oral arguments will continue in person or by video as directed by individual panels, but the court said only counsel presenting argument may enter the courthouse.

The 2nd Circuit at New York said as of Tuesday, all oral arguments will be conducted remotely by Zoom or teleconference. The court will resume in-person proceedings “as soon as circumstances permit.” The public counter in the clerk’s office will also be closed until further notice.

In a similar order, the 7th Circuit at Chicago said cases scheduled for oral argument through Jan. 31 will be argued by telephone or video. The court also recommended that court-unit supervisors use their discretion to minimize on-site staffing during this period.

The 1st Circuit at Boston also noted in a public advisory on its website that it will host oral arguments by videoconference throughout January.

Reuters reports that other federal courts, including the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., said last week that they would also be making changes to minimize the threat of COVID-19 exposure.

In its notice, the Federal Circuit said “due to changing public health conditions impacting the National Capital Region,” it would conduct all arguments scheduled in January by telephone.

See also:

ABA Journal: “Courts attempt to balance innovation with access in remote proceedings”

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