Published on: Friday, December 31, 2021

Federal appeals courts in New York, New Orleans and Chicago have announced new plans to curb public operations in January as COVID-19 infections surge across the country, marking the latest moves in the federal judiciary to minimize exposure threats (article available here).

The New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said on Wednesday that oral arguments will be held remotely beginning on Jan. 4 "in light of the recent surge in Covid-19 infections." The court said it would resume in-person arguments "as soon as circumstances permit."

In New Orleans, the 5th Circuit on Wednesday said its courthouse will close to the public beginning on Jan. 3 "due to resurgence of COVID in the New Orleans area."

The Chicago-based 7th Circuit said in a statement on Tuesday the court will hear arguments by telephone or video through the end of January. The appeals court also said on-site staffing would be minimized through Jan. 31.

Some federal courts in recent days have announced new vaccine and masking requirements and reduced in-person proceedings for January, measures implemented amid the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in the United States.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, also based in Washington, D.C., on Monday said oral arguments in January will be held remotely due to the "changing public health conditions" in the region.

The Federal Circuit also will require anyone attending an in-person hearing to provide a negative COVID-19 test result, regardless of their vaccination status. The San Francisco-based 9th Circuit said last week that lawyers who appear for an in-person argument must be fully vaccinated to include a "booster" shot as soon as eligible.