2nd Circ. Judges Go Fully Virtual As NYC Mulls Travel Curbs

Law360, New York (March 18, 2020, 6:46 PM EDT) -- All Second Circuit judges will be appearing virtually for at least the rest of the week amid the possibility of stronger travel curbs in New York City to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Second Circuit panels that typically meet in the Thurgood Marshall Courthouse in Manhattan, at right, will now conduct proceedings by teleconference because of the coronavirus pandemic. (AP)

The decision expands upon an order on Monday that gives judges, appellate lawyers and their clients the option to argue virtually and is designed to preempt confusion should the circuit's home base in Lower Manhattan be subjected to a "shelter-in-place" directive or other restrictions amid the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.

"For the remainder of this week, Second Circuit panels will be conducting oral arguments from a teleconference platform that will be livestreamed," Clerk of Court Catherine O'Hagan Wolfe told Law360. "The judges will also be participating remotely."

With more than 7,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the United States, including more than 2,600 across New York state as of Wednesday, the decision was made to head off confusion should stronger travel curbs be imposed.

There was discord on Wednesday about the possibility of a "shelter-in-place" order for New York City, discouraging all but essential travel, with the city's Mayor Bill de Blasio saying such action was on the table and Gov. Andrew Cuomo shooting the idea down.

For the Second Circuit, whose jurisdiction includes New York, Connecticut and Vermont, the idea is to reduce potential near-term confusion.

Going virtual is a decision that is in line with other circuits' policies and procedures, Wolfe said, though she noted that the Second Circuit has a longstanding tradition of in-person argument that is on hold, at least for now.

The upshot for lawyers, some of whom have indicated a strong preference for arguing in person, is that any attorney showing up in Lower Manhattan to argue in the circuit this week won't see any judges. Audio of arguments will be livestreamed via the circuit's website.

--Additional reporting by Mike LaSusa and Jody Godoy. Editing by Nicole Bleier.

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

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