Coronavirus and the courts


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MEDIA INQUIRES: Please contact Lorri Montgomery at 757-262-8694.

Courts around the country are responding to the coronavirus in numerous ways, working to balance public health and safety with access and openness. NCSC is compiling resources, news, court orders, and more and updating this page on a daily basis. 

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Webinar: Access to Justice Considerations for State and Local Courts as They Respond to COVID-19: A Conversation, April 3 at 3 EDT

View webinar details.
Register here.

The evolving nature of ‘essential services’ and ‘urgent matters’


Coronavirus and the Courts State Profiles 3-30-2020

Here’s a summary of what happened as of March 30:

  • Extensions of suspension of jury trials and restrictions on in-person proceedings in Guam, New Jersey, Oregon, and Puerto Rico
  • Weekend jail sentences suspended in District of Columbia
  • Oregon chief justice directs judges to work with local law enforcement and corrections to identify persons who can be safely released from jail 


If your court does not have a pandemic response and operations plan, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) offers resources to help:

  • NCSC hosted a Facebook live event on March 5 to discuss the impact the coronavirus is having on courts and what courts can do in response. The event, which was sponsored by the State Justice Institute, featured Nora Sydow, a Principal Court Management Consultant and staff to the CCJ/COSCA 2016 Pandemic and Emergency Response Task Force and project director for the 2019 CCJ/COSCA National Pandemic Summit. 
  • This Preparing for a Pandemic blueprint guides state and local court leaders without an existing pandemic benchbook to create one, and prompts states with a benchbook to keep it updated (Appendix B provides templates and checklists).
  • The Texas benchbook was updated in 2020. 

For two days in May 2019, Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Heavican hosted the National Pandemic Summit at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, home to the country’s largest biocontainment unit. The summit, which now looks to be ahead of its time, brought court leaders, public health officials, legislators, and executive branch officials from 25 states and three territories together to start a conversation on how states need to plan and prepare for a pandemic, which often includes quarantines that raise many potential legal issues. The summit, the first-of-its-kind, was funded through a grant from the State Justice Institute and staffed by the National Center for State Courts.

Go here to read more about the summit.

  • Maine Preparedness by Judge Charles C. LaVerdiere who presided over the 2014 Ebola case and related litigation.
  • Judge LaVerdiere's order in State of Maine v. Kaci Hickox
  • Podcast in which Judge LaVerdiere discusses lessons for judges and other court employees
  • State Law in a Pandemic Response provides information about how state laws vary in terms of what courts and judges can do with regard to quarantine and related issues.

The report for Florida's Eleventh Circuit (Miami-Dade) examined both court staff's awareness of health issues and their knowledge of how to prepare themselves. Surveyed court staff regarding whether or not they would return to work amidst a pandemic and under what conditions.