Federal Courts Close in the Wake COVID-19
Last Thursday, March 12, the Supreme Court of the United States announced that it will remain for official business but will be closed to the public. On Monday, the Supreme Court issued a press release announcing that it will postpone oral arguments that were scheduled for March “in keeping with public health precautions recommended in response to COVID-19.”
Importantly, however, these precautionary measures do not push back filing deadlines per Rule 30.1 Supreme Court Rules, which extends filing deadlines for days “on which the Court building is closed by order of the Court or the Chief Justice…”
Federal Court Closures Across the Country
In addition to the U.S. Supreme Court, several other federal district courts have limited or even suspended matters to varying.
In Seattle, Washington—one of the places significantly impacted by the coronavirus—the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington ordered continuances for all civil and criminal matters scheduled for in-court appearances in the Seattle and Tacoma Courthouses.
In criminal cases, the defendant has a constitutional right to a fair and speedy trial. However, Judge Ricardo Martinez, Chief Judge for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, held that the continuances are excluded under the Speedy Trial Act.
Judge Martinez reasoned that the “ends of justice served by ordering the continuances outweigh the best interests of the public and any defendant’s right to a speedy trial” because “the Court’s reduced ability to obtain an adequate spectrum of jurors and the effect of the above public health recommendations on the availability of counsel and Court staff…”
The Eastern District of Washington will also require criminal detainees to be screened for symptoms of infection, prohibiting those with a temperature of 100.4 or higher from entering the courthouse.
Furthermore, people who have traveled to Washington State, and New Rochelle, New York, are barred from coming to federal courts in Maryland.
Other federal court closures include:
- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit (New York, New York)
- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit (Richmond, Virginia)
- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit (Cincinnati, Ohio)
- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit (San Francisco, California)
- The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California
- The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio
- The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan
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