Fed. Circ. Building Limits Public Access Amid Virus Spread

By Sarah Martinson
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Law360 (March 16, 2020, 2:58 PM EDT) -- The National Courts Building in Washington, D.C., where the Federal Circuit and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims are housed, has restricted public access to stop the spread of the coronavirus, according to a Monday announcement from the circuit court.

Effective immediately, attorneys, their clients and members of the media will only be allowed entry into limited areas of the building on scheduled court hearing dates, the Federal Circuit said.

"These restrictions will be in place as a temporary measure in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to minimize the risk to the health and safety of both court staff and the public conducting business with the court," it said.

The announcement said areas outside of the lobby, courtrooms, public halls, the clerk's office and attorney lounges will be off-limits to the public. Those who are dropping off court filings will not be permitted to enter the building and will have to deposit filings in a box outside, according to the announcement.

The circuit court advised that the restrictions do not impact case deadlines, and that audio recordings of oral arguments will be available online after hearings have concluded.

People who have COVID-19 or have come in contact with someone who has the virus are instructed not to enter the building, the circuit court said.

The Federal Circuit's restrictions follow the actions that other courts have taken in the last two weeks in Washington state, New York and Massachusetts amid the spread of the coronavirus.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday shut its doors to the public until further notice and postponed the two-week oral argument session it had scheduled to begin March 23.

In New York, the state court system suspended all new civil and criminal jury trials, halted jury selection and will no longer empanel grand juries "absent exceptional circumstances."

Also Monday, the World Intellectual Property Organization said that starting Tuesday it would limit entry to its Geneva headquarters to staff whose jobs must be conducted onsite.

WIPO Director General Francis Gurry said in a Monday statement that the organization is dedicated to the welfare of its staff and the communities where they live.

"In these worrisome times, the entire WIPO workforce stands in solidarity with the global community as we work together to overcome COVID-19," Gurry said.

--Editing by Orlando Lorenzo.

Update: This article has been updated with more details on the building access restrictions.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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