CHAIR: Hon. J. Michelle Childs
Court Processes Committee
Addressing processes, procedures, and best practices necessary to conduct court proceedings effectively during the pandemic.
Court Access and Rules Changes
- The Michigan State Court Administrator issued a memo on Sept. 25, 2020, to all Michigan judges about new criteria for courts to conduct jury trials. The memo can be found here.
- The Bolch Judicial Institute at Duke Law has put together a webpage with links and resources for judges entitled COVID-19 and the Courts: A Resource Guide for Judges.
- The Massachusetts State Court System maintains a webpage containing news and information on action being taken by Massachusetts state courts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The Administrative Office of the US Courts, published an article, titled “Federal Judges Reinventing the Jury Trial During Pandemic”. The article highlights a group of federal judges from around the country who are reinventing the jury trial so that it is not only a fair forum for the administration of justice, but also a safe experience for everyone in the courtroom, including defendants and jurors.
- The Federal Judiciary website has dedicated resources and information on Judiciary Preparedness for the Coronavirus.
- Conducting Effective Remote Hearings in Child Welfare Cases during COVID-19.
- Law360 offers the latest updates on court closures and restrictions, including federal courts, due to COVID-19.
- Electronic Frontier Foundation joins coalition urging judicial transparency during the COVID-19 emergency.
- National Association of Drug Court Professionals offers best practices for Treatment Courts.
- The Self-Represented Litigation Network has collected resources on serving self-represented litigants during the pandemic.
- LawSites has developed a page that lists products and services offered by companies for free to support the work of legal professionals during the coronavirus crisis.
- ABA Asks CISA to Deem Lawyers' Legal Services to Clients to be Essential Services in Any National “Stay at Home” Order (March 24, 2020)
ABA letter to the Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) requests that if the agency recommends that a national “stay at home” order be issued as part of the federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency include the critical legal services that lawyers provide to their clients in any definition of “essential services” contained in that order.
- The Rhode Island Judiciary has launched a COVID-19 Business Recovery Program to assist businesses whose operations have been seriously disrupted by the pandemic. The program permits qualifying businesses that were current on their financial obligations as of January 15, 2020 to operate under non-liquidating receiverships.
- ABA Letter in Support of Emergency Supplemental Funding for Court Improvement Programs (April 17, 2020)
ABA letter to House and Senate leaders supports emergency supplemental funding in the next stimulus bill to ensure that the child welfare system has the tools it needs to prevent or address child maltreatment caused or made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- US District Court of the Eastern District of Texas, issues order extending certain statutory deadlines for administrative and civil judicial forfeiture proceedings and actions.
- The Administrative Office of the Courts has developed COVID-19 Recovery Guidelines for the Federal Judiciary.
- The Judicial Division’s Gavel Talks is an audio and video library exploring best practices and judicial advice on topics of professional development for judges, lawyers and law students. Season Two of the podcast has focused on COVID-19 crisis and the effects on the courts.
- Wisconsin Lawyers Once Again Permitted to Provide Ghostwriting Services
- The California Commission on Access to Justice has developed a guide for courts and court users, entitled “Remote Hearings and Access to Justice During COVID-19 and Beyond.”
- The Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS), has launched a new project to create Initial Discovery Protocols for COVID-19 Insurance Claims.
- Texas Supreme Court Issues Amended Coronavirus Emergency Order. The amended order extends deadlines, allows testing jury proceedings.
- In response to the unprecedented demands on the legal system in general and the judiciary in specific, the Judicial Division has gathered resources from its members and outside entities to provide assistance to judges who are operating in uncertain conditions.
- The Judicial Division’s National Conference of the Administrative Law Judiciary conducted a survey of administrative law judges to provide a snapshot of the actions taken by administrative tribunals across the country in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The survey sought to gauge the views and perspectives offered by judges in response to those actions along with suggestion for improving future responses to future pandemics or other natural disasters.
- Report of the Civil Justice Counsel of the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary of England and Wales on The Impact of COVID-19 Measures on the Civil Justice System.
- Judiciary Issues a comprehensive new report on conducting federal jury trials and convening grand juries during the pandemic.
- The National District Attorneys Association and CNA have partnered during the COVID-19 pandemic to assist prosecutors with the most current information, effective best practices, and targeted resources to keep their communities safe and secure.
- The National Center for State Courts conducted a national public opinion survey between June 8-11, in an effort to capture sentiment toward serving on a jury in person, serving on a jury remotely, and to better understand issues related to technology and remote access to court services. Please find the formal report from GBAO Strategies which contains analysis on demographic trends as well as the materials from the NCSC COVID-19 webinar on the poll presentation. The presentation was recorded and can be accessed here.
- Trial Strategies distributed a memorandum to its clients regarding jury panels during the COVID-19 pandemic
- The following Practical Law checklists include information on the federal courts and select state courts COVID-19 related operations, rules, orders and notices:
- The Department of Justice, Bureau of Prisons amends its regulations to provide inmates in federal custody with the opportunity for free video-teleconferencing and telephone usage during the national emergency with respect to Coronavirus Disease 2019. This rule was effective June 22, 2020.
- On July 1, 2020, the COVID-19 Continuity of Court Operations During a Public Health Emergency Workgroup, issued a report on “Protocol for In-Courthouse COVID-19 Exposure or Symptoms by a Participant in Arizona State Courts.” The policies and procedures are designed to provide guidance to local courts for both non-jury in-person proceedings as well as in-person jury trials.
- Summary of Remote Hearing Guidance: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, numerous courts have transitioned to remote hearings to adhere to social distancing requirements. This document provides a summary and hyperlinks to articles, guidance, studies and decisions that discuss approaches to remote hearings. Topics include access to justice, accessibility, and due process considerations, among others. Readers should be aware that this document is not exhaustive.
- The Colorado Supreme Court has issued an Order regarding extending jury suspension until 8-3-2020.
- “Trials to begin in Denver next week as courts prepare for statewide return of jurors in August,” by Elise Schmelzer, The Denver Post (July 17, 2020).
- The Summary of Research on the Influence of Telepresence in Decision-Making provides an overview on the impact of how video changes our perception of events (virtual court, determinations of credibility, guilt, and innocence, etc.).
- The US Tax Courts provides tax court materials for parties for remote working groups.
- The Michigan Supreme Court authorized piloting remote (videoconference) jury trials, as opposed to jury trials requiring the parties, witnesses, and jurors to come to the courthouse. A pilot workgroup was formed of more than 75 judges, court administrators, attorney and court staff, with goal of testing and evaluating innovative jury procedures that allow for appropriate social distancing while also protecting the parties’ Constitutional and statutory rights. The results of this pilot will serve as a guide for courts about what practices ensure that the parties can present their case effectively and what practices ensure that jurors can participate fully.
- Postal Service Considerations – Courts rely on the US Postal Service to effectuate service and to deliver time-sensitive documents. The date a document is mailed or received can also have enormous implications, as many court rules specify those “triggering events” which can start the clock running toward things like a default judgment or wage garnishment. How can and should courts adapt to changing USPS procedures and the implications of those changes? Watch the Tiny Chat on the Postal Service Considerations here.
- The National Notary Association updates their site frequently on details about state emergency actions. Please note some emergency orders only cover documents to be filed in court and some do not allow remote witnessing.
- The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel has prepared a state-by-state compilation of information about remorse notarization and witnessing of documents.