Federal courts in New York curtail activities amid coronavirus outbreak

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Not even the federal halls of justice are immune to the coronavirus crisis in New York City.

Both the Southern and Eastern District Courts of New York have ordered serious reductions in procedures and schedules through the end of April as the country responds to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Orders issued by federal judges in both districts serving the New York City area went into effect Monday, March 16, and will continue through at least April 27. The orders delay the scheduled start of civil and criminal trials during that 45-day period.

Any jury trials started before March 16 will continue, but compliance with any deadlines for civil or criminal cases scheduled before April 27 will be left to each judge’s discretion.

The order also exempts the 45-day period between March 16 and April 27 from the federal Speedy Trial Act for all criminal matters. The courts recognize, however, an individual defendant’s right to a speedy trial. Defense lawyers may file an exception to this order as needed for further consideration.

Even so, judges may continue to hold hearings, conferences and bench trials during the 45-day period, and criminal court proceedings — such as initial appearances, arraignments, detention and bail review proceedings — shall continue uninterrupted.

The Southern District of New York order further recommends that judges exercise phone or video conferencing for certain hearings, when practical.

Also, the Eastern District of New York order suspends all naturalization proceedings for pending U.S. citizens during the 45-day period.

The orders were enacted as a result of emergency orders that President Trump and Governor Andrew Cuomo issued in recent days to limit the size of public gatherings. On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control recommended that all gatherings of 10 or more people be postponed for at least eight weeks.

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