As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues across Indiana, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana is extending its authorization of video and teleconferencing in court proceedings by three months.
Chief Judge Jon DeGuilio on March 15 issued General Order 2021-10, allowing court proceedings to be conduct via videoconferencing, or teleconferencing if videoconferencing is not possible, through June 14. The authorization extends to 10 types of proceedings first authorized for remote procedures last year, including:
- Detention hearings under 18 U.S.C. § 3142.
- Initial appearances under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 5.
- Preliminary hearings under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 5.1.
- Waivers of indictment under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 7(b).
- Arraignments under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 10.
- Probation and supervised release revocation proceedings under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 32.1.
- Pretrial release revocation proceedings under 18 U.S.C. § 3148.
- Appearances under Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 40.
- Misdemeanor pleas and sentencings as described in Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 43(b)(2).
- Proceedings under 18 U.S.C. § 403, except for contested transfer hearings and juvenile delinquency adjudication or trial proceedings.
As for felony proceedings, “The threat presented by COVID-19 and its spread remain very real concerns and continues to create exigent circumstances; therefore, the Chief Judge finds that felony pleas and felony sentencings cannot be conducted in person without seriously jeopardizing public health and safety. As such, the presiding judge should be given discretion in determining whether to conduct such matters in person.”
The Indiana Northern District Court resumed jury trials and reopened its clerk’s offices to the public March 1. However, the March 15 order noted that more than half of all counties within the Northern District were at a “yellow” COVID advisory level as of March 9.
“Moreover, the president of the United States notified Congress on February 24, 2021, that the pandemic continues to cause significant risk to the public health and safety of the nation and, on February 26, 2021, published formal notice in the Federal Register continuing the national emergency concerning COVID-19.”
Criminal proceedings may be conducted in-person, the order continues, but only on a case-by-case basis, at the discretion of the presiding judge or magistrate judge, and in consultation with counsel and the U.S. Marshal Service.