Virtual 2nd Circ. Off To Smooth Start But No End In Sight

By Pete Brush
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Law360, New York (April 3, 2020, 5:28 PM EDT) -- The Second Circuit's foray into internet-based appellate review in order to practice social distancing and help combat the spread of the novel coronavirus is off to a good start, though streaming traffic "wouldn't knock your socks off," and the plan is to continue, a court official said on Friday.

Law360 checked in with Clerk of Court Catherine O'Hagan Wolfe after two-and-a-half weeks of audio-only and nearly 30 virtual hearings. She said the circuit plans to keep doing remote appellate review for the immediate future amid New York travel curbs and broad social distancing mandates across the U.S. Northeast.

"We've settled into a rhythm," Wolfe said. "The livestream has been working well."

On March 18, the circuit said its 26 judges would appear remotely, signaling to lawyers in the circuit's jurisdiction of New York, Connecticut and Vermont, and elsewhere that their presence in Lower Manhattan is not desired during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. The rollout has received generally positive reviews from lawyers, given the circumstances.

"The number of hits wouldn't knock your socks off, but it has served the purpose of public access," Wolfe said.

Streams rarely approach 200 listeners at any time, she said. Replays posted to the circuit's website get more listeners, she said, adding that the audio-only live feed is designed to be "low tech" to minimize the potential for glitches.

Oral arguments for appeals and motions will go on as scheduled, and a 21-day filing extension announced on March 16 will lapse as planned, Wolfe said. Parties are expected to begin filing papers on Monday.

"Filings and deadlines that were originally due between March 16 and May 17, 2020 are now due beginning April 6, 2020 and ending June 5, 2020. Absent an extraordinary circumstance, which is defined as 'serious personal illness or death in counsel's immediate family,' no additional extensions of time to file will be granted," according to circuit guidance.

--Editing by Nicole Bleier.

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