7th Circuit requiring complete vaccination status for in-person oral arguments

Lawyers preparing to appear in person for oral arguments at the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 – otherwise, they’ll be asked to appear remotely.

The 7th Circuit is one of the nation’s first federal appeals courts requiring attorneys delivering in-person oral arguments to submit proof of vaccination for the coronavirus. The vaccination requirement comes in response to the delta variant surge and the increasing number of COVID-19 infection rates nationwide.

Chief Judge Diane Sykes in an Aug. 13 order wrote that lawyers planning to attend oral argument in person at the Chicago-based courthouse on or after Oct. 4 must be fully vaccinated against the virus. The 7th Circuit is also requiring all court staff to get inoculated, with certain medical exemptions.

To be considered fully vaccinated, two weeks must pass after an individual receives a second dose in a two-dose series or after they have received a single-dose vaccine.

Attorneys who are vaccinated must submit proof to the 7th Circuit two weeks before the oral argument date. However, they won’t have to wear a mask in the courtroom or in the lawyers lounge. Masks will still be required for all visitors in public areas at the courthouse, regardless of vaccination status.

Lawyers who haven’t received the vaccine must present their oral arguments remotely via telephone or by a communications platform approved by the court.

As the United States heads into flu season amid rising COVID-19 cases the nation’s federal appeals courts aren’t in total alignment with their approaches to the vaccine. Some continue to hold oral arguments remotely, while others have yet to implement inoculation requirements for courthouse entry.

Like the 7th Circuit, the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals also limited in person oral arguments to fully vaccinated attorneys.

All individuals entering the 10th Circuit courthouse must be vaccinated, which is an approach that the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has also adopted. If not, they must provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test within the previous 72 hours.

Vaccinations or a negative test will also be required for visitors of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit when it resumes in-person arguments on Aug. 30.

But the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals will hold oral arguments by video conference during the court’s September 2021 session. The 4th Circuit Court similarly canceled in-person oral arguments during its Sept. 17-24 argument session, opting instead to utilize Zoom.

Unlike its relatives, the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals is only requiring masks in public areas, but not when lawyers are presenting arguments.

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