The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has reported that all courts within the Third United States Judicial Circuit are open and operational, despite a curtailment of certain court functions and the closure of several court facilities. The Third Circuit encompasses Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and the Virgin Islands, and includes the federal district and bankruptcy courts.
On a court-by-court basis, Chief Judge D. Brooks Smith and the Circuit Executive summarized operations as of March 20, 2020, as follows:
Third Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals is open for business. Oral arguments will go forward as scheduled. Parties may request to appear by audio-conference by filing a motion. If a panel determines that argument should be presented telephonically, the Clerk’s Office will provide counsel with audio-conference instructions. Recordings of oral arguments will be made available on the Court’s website within 24 hours after argument concludes. The Clerk’s Office will be open but minimally staffed. The majority of staff are working remotely and will return phone calls. During this time, the requirement to file hard copies of filings is deferred. Parties may request extensions of time either by motion or by calling the Clerk’s office. The Court is also prepared to handle emergencies.
District of Delaware. The District of Delaware is open. Court operations and physical access have been. There are several Standing Orders in effect reflecting these and other operational changes. The Standing Orders are posted on the District of Delaware website. The website is updated regularly to reflect any changes.
Western District of Pennsylvania. District Court and Bankruptcy Court are open during normal business hours. Those courts continue to conduct necessary judicial business, accept electronic and paper filings, and respond to public inquiries. Civil and criminal jury selections and trials have been continued until April 27, 2020. Non-case related activities in all court facilities have been rescheduled. Grand Jury operations are suspended until April 6, 2020. District Court and Bankruptcy Court are operating with only essential staff in their courthouses with most staff teleworking. Initial criminal proceedings are being conducted by video from detention centers where possible. Most District Court hearings and all Bankruptcy Court hearings are being conducted telephonically.
Middle District of Pennsylvania. The Harrisburg Courthouse has been closed until further notice as a result of a positive COVID-19 test of a resident law enforcement agent stationed in the building. All court proceedings will be transferred to either the Williamsport or Scranton Courthouses. Otherwise, all locations are operating with skeleton staffs and all hearings are done by either video or telephone with few exceptions. All operational tasks are done to minimize as much as possible exposure to others. The websites of the District and Bankruptcy Courts, as well as the Probation Office, are being continually updated regarding operational issues, instructions and procedural changes.
Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The District continues to be open and operational, but with limited essential services. The Easton location has been closed because a Court employee had contact with a person who subsequently tested positive for COVID-19. Courthouses in Philadelphia and Allentown and the Reading location remain open with restricted public access. All civil and criminal jury trials, as well as grand jury proceedings, arbitration hearings, attorney admission ceremonies, naturalization ceremonies, and Central Violations Bureau hearings, have been continued until April 13, 2020. A number of Standing Orders are in effect reflecting these and other operational changes. The Standing Orders are posted on the District Court’s website, and the website is updated regularly to reflect any new developments. Bankruptcy Court in Reading and Philadelphia continues to be open and operational, but with limited essential services. All scheduled hearings are telephonic and certain routine deadlines have been extended by 60 days.
District of New Jersey. The District of New Jersey has four courthouses located in Newark (2), Trenton and Camden. The District has implemented the following procedures in response to COVID-19: District Court: 90% of Court staff is teleworking. All civil and criminal jury selections and jury trials scheduled to begin before April 30, 2020 are continued, pending further Order of the Court. Each Clerk’s Office is minimally staffed with supervision. In-person filings are limited to the drop box in each courthouse with exceptions for emergent matters. Judges are conducting pretrial/settlement conferences via video and teleconferencing. Detainees in new arrests are appearing in person or via video, subject to place of confinement. The Court website is constantly updated. IT staff is working in-person at each courthouse. Daily telephonic debriefings are being held among all court units/departments. Bankruptcy Court: A General Order has been posted addressing hearings, appearances, etc. Most staff is teleworking with minimum staff on site. Probation/Pretrial: Minimum staffing for each courthouse/office with others teleworking.
The situation remains in flux and we are monitoring court notifications, and checking the courts’ web sites for updates with regard to pending matters. In the meantime, if you need anything, please contact us using the form below, or give us a call at 610-797-9000. As always, we are here for you.