State courts lead national effort to maintain access to justice despite COVID-19 pandemic

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Lorri Montgomery
Communications Director
National Center for State Courts

State courts lead national effort to maintain access to justice despite COVID-19 pandemic

Williamsburg, Va. (April 20, 2020)—While the COVID-19 pandemic is putting unparalleled pressure on government at all levels, state courts are findings ways to remain open to provide essential services to the public. This includes ensuring that cases involving constitutional rights and public safety receive the highest priority.

This national effort is being led by the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ) and the Conference of State Court Administrators (COSCA). Jointly, the groups have formed a Pandemic Rapid Response Team consisting of six judicial leaders. The group is chaired by Chief Justice Nathan Hecht of Texas, who is
serving as president of CCJ.

“State courts are the heart of the American system of justice,” said Chief Justice Hecht. “Collectively we are working together to protect public health while also finding innovative ways to keep the courts open for business.”

Across the country, state courts have taken action to balance the important need to maintain access to the courts with the equally critical need to protect public health.

Some examples of actions undertaken by the state courts include:

  • Suspending jury trials in an effort to support social distancing efforts recommended by the CDC
  • Restricting access to court buildings for those exhibiting flu-like symptoms
  • Expanding access to remote hearing technology, while also providing training to judges, court staff and court users
  • Continuing to hear certain essential matters in person

NCSC is tracking this and other vital information about how courts are responding to the pandemic at NCSC is maintaining a data visualization highlighting key efforts aimed at maintaining access to justice while ensuring public health.

Chief Justice Hecht welcomes requests for interviews to discuss the efforts of the state court system in this time of national emergency.

National Center for State Courts, 300 Newport Avenue, Williamsburg, VA 23185-4147