Federal courts enter ‘grace period’ to phase out remote audio access as COVID emergency ends

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The U.S. federal judiciary has entered a 120-day “grace period” to phase out the use of remote public audio access to civil and bankruptcy proceedings, put in place during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The grace period began Wednesday and will end Sept. 21, according to U.S. Judicial Conference Executive Committee, which made an official finding earlier this month that the “COVID-19 emergency is no longer affecting the functioning of the federal courts … .”

During the grace period, federal courts may continue to provide the same remote public audio access to civil and bankruptcy proceedings as they did during the emergency. The grace period only relates to the judiciary’s temporary broadcasting exception for remote audio public access to civil and bankruptcy proceedings.

Most courts have already ended the use of virtual criminal proceedings, according to the U.S. Courts, and the permission to conduct some criminal proceedings by video or teleconference, which had been granted under the 2020 CARES Act, ended May 10.

The Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management will continue to study possible changes to the judiciary’s broadcasting policy related to civil and bankruptcy proceedings based on data and information gathered during the pandemic. A report from the committee may be provided at the next Judicial Conference session on Sept. 12.

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