Judges Warn It’s Not ‘Business As Usual’ Amid Pandemic

A U.S. federal courtroom sits empty on Monday, Feb. 13, 2017, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Jennifer Sinco Kelleher)

By Aebra Coe

Law360 (March 24, 2020, 7:13 PM EDT) — Lawyers must understand that state and federal courts are not equipped to handle “business as usual,” and they should think twice before labeling a matter or motion an emergency as courts grapple with stringent new social distancing efforts, a state supreme court justice and federal bankruptcy judge said Tuesday.

Courts are doing the best they can to adapt and implement remote court proceedings as many courthouses close their doors to visitors, but attorneys should expect delays in most proceedings for the next month at least as communities work to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, said judges serving on a webinar panel presented Tuesday by the American Bar Association.

“Our courts should not be operating like it’s business as usual. Traffic at the courthouses should be drastically decreased,” said North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley.

Beasley has implemented a series of orders since March 13 restricting activity in and access to the courts under her purview, extending filing deadlines, postponing trials, postponing any hearings that can’t be conducted remotely unless they are necessary to protect the due process of law or the health and safety of the public, and postponing less urgent matters like foreclosures.

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