Editor’s note: This article has been updated with comments from the clerk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana.
Federal court clerk’s offices across the Southern District of Indiana are now closed to the public indefinitely as the months-long COVID-19 pandemic continues.
Roger A.G. Sharpe, clerk of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, announced that clerk’s offices across the district’s four divisions will be closed to the public effective Monday. The closure also applies to the clerk’s offices of the Indiana Southern District Bankruptcy Court.
The Monday announcement did not include an end date for the public closures.
Per an order issued in March, the Indiana Southern District will continue to allow pro se litigants to submit filings via email. Such filings must be sent to [email protected] and must comply with the requirements of the March 24, 2020, order.
Also, drop boxes are still available for filings at all Indiana Southern District federal courthouses. Court staff will continue to receive and process mail and other deliveries.
Clerk’s office employees “are teleworking as much as is practicable, while still allowing for the continuation of all core functions,” the announcement says. However, due to a reduction in on-site staff, phone calls may not be answered immediately. Callers will be able to leave a message and calls will be returned as promptly as possible.
The closure of the Southern District’s clerk’s offices comes shortly after the district re-suspended jury trials and naturalization ceremonies earlier this month.
Jury trials had previously resumed in the Indiana Southern District in the late summer, but the recent resurgence in positive COVID-19 cases led dozens of courts to suspend jury trials, including the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana.
In an email to Indiana Lawyer, Robert Trgovich, clerk of the Indiana Northern District Court, said his district is considering closing the clerk’s office to the public. If that decision is made, the closure would be implemented by general order.
“Each office would have a drop box for filings outside the main entrance to the Clerk’s Office in each of our buildings. These boxes would be checked multiple times per day,” Trgovich wrote to IL. “Clerk’s Office staff will be available by phone and email to assist the public and the bar. The Clerk’s Offices will remain staffed, but the offices will not be accessible to the public.
“If approved,” he continued, “this procedure will become effective in the very near future.”
The Indiana Southern District’s announcement also warned the public against scammers trying to use the pandemic as a way to take advantage of litigants.
“In anticipation that scammers may attempt to take advantage of the confusion and fear caused by the pandemic, the Court reminds all residents of the Southern District of Indiana that a court official or other government employees will never contact someone and demand personal information or payment by phone or email. Individuals receiving such a call should hang up immediately and may report the incident to the Federal Communications Commission at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1.”
Despite the court closures, the U.S. Probation Office is continuing its monitoring and enforcement work throughout the Indiana Southern District.
Updates to Southern District court operations during the pandemic can be found here.