October 15, 2020 Civil Procedure

FRCP 1 and COVID-19: Litigating Through a Pandemic

The ongoing health crisis makes attorney cooperation more necessary than ever

By Brian A. Zemil

It is early April. The birds are chirping, the leaves are sprouting, and the grass is a vibrant green. Nature this spring looks just like springs in the past; meanwhile COVID-19 has changed everything else, including how we practice law. This pandemic has forced attorneys, clients, and many judicial officers out of their offices and into uncharted legal territory. These substantial disruptions and uncertainties have required a re-examination of the American legal system, including whether and when courthouses should remain open, litigants may access courtrooms, trials should proceed, and proceedings occur via remote technology.

COVID-19 has triggered a judicial watershed moment, and we are reevaluating how we do justice. Technology has empowered courts and parties to find new ways to cooperate, while attorneys’ esprit de corps has breathed new life into the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. When this column is published, many COVID-19–related changes will likely reflect our new normal and reveal our commitment, or lack thereof, to Rule 1 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

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