Federal courts get approval for remote access

The Judicial Conference of the United States is temporarily allowing federal courts to use video and teleconferencing for certain criminal proceedings as well as teleconferencing for civil proceedings during the COVID-19 national emergency.

As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, the Judicial Conference found the emergency conditions brought by the pandemic will impact the functioning of the federal courts. Consequently, chief district judges can authorize the use of video or telephone conference for certain criminal proceedings with the consent of the defendant.

The authorization will end 30 days after the conclusion of the national emergency or when the Judicial Conference finds the federal courts are no longer affected.

Also, the executive committee of the Judicial Conference is allowing judges to use teleconferencing to provide the public and media audio access to court proceedings. The exception may be applied when public access to the federal courthouse is restricted because of health and safety concerns related to the pandemic.

However, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts is evaluating whether teleconference and videoconferencing technology could be used to provide the public and the media access to criminal proceedings. Currently the administrative office is reviewing Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 53 and the CARES Act and will be providing additional guidance in the near future.

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