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Law360 (March 23, 2020, 5:19 PM EDT) -- The Federal Circuit and the U.S. International Trade Commission are no longer requiring practitioners to submit physical copies of documents or other media during the coronavirus pandemic.
Chief Federal Circuit Judge Sharon Prost issued an administrative order altering filing requirements Friday, in an effort to keep the court functioning while keeping its staff safe from COVID-19. The judge said the court has expanded teleworking and reduced how many staff are on-site.
Judge Prost said paper copies of filings no longer have to be submitted along with electronic copies, unless a party is directly ordered to do so. The clerk's office will still accept filings that can't be submitted any other way, or from parties not permitted to file online.
She also cleared the clerk's office to adjust how it interacts with the public by limiting its phone assistance and encouraging the public to send questions over email. There are separate email lines for those asking about a pending case, and those with more general questions.
The order also allows pro se plaintiffs to initiate a case through fax and email, suspending a rule requiring those documents to be submitted physically.
Judge Prost's order comes a few days after the ITC modified its procedures. The March 16 notice from the ITC included a temporary waiver of its requirements to file paper copies, CD-ROMs and other physical media. It mandated that all filings be submitted electronically, including those for new complaints.
Both the Federal Circuit and the ITC have already suspended in-person hearings. Likewise, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and U.S. Copyright Office are closed to the public.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health officials have been calling for people to avoid large gatherings and being in public in an effort to minimize exposure to the virus, keep hospitals and providers from being overwhelmed with too many cases, and to protect high-risk groups.
--Editing by Alanna Weissman.
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