Pa. Federal Court Closed After Attys Show Virus Symptoms

Law360 (March 25, 2020, 5:56 PM EDT) -- The chief judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ordered Philadelphia’s federal courthouse closed Wednesday afternoon after learning two attorneys who recently appeared in the building began showing symptoms of COVID-19.

Chief U.S. District Judge Juan Sanchez said that the James A. Byrne U.S. Courthouse would remain closed through Sunday in order “to protect the health and safety of the public, staff and judicial officers from further exposure to or spread of the disease.” The judge said the ailing attorneys, who were not identified, had appeared in the normally busy courthouse in the past two weeks and had since fallen ill.

While the physical courthouse may be closed to everyone except for authorized cleaning personnel, Judge Sanchez said the court itself would remain open for official business through the electronic case filing system.

The courthouse is expected to open to the public again on Monday, the judge said.

The Third Circuit, which maintains offices and courtrooms in Philadelphia’s federal courthouse, said on its website that it would be conducting business remotely during the closure and would still be accepting electronic filings.

The closure comes just days after the chief judge for the Middle District of Pennsylvania ordered the courthouse in Scranton to shutter until March 30 after an unnamed individual who went on to display symptoms of COVID-19 appeared in the building. The federal courthouse in Harrisburg had previously been closed as a general precautionary measure, but reopened on Tuesday.

Jury trials, meanwhile, have been suspended in all three of the state’s federal judicial districts, and courthouse access restrictions have been put in place for individuals displaying symptoms of COVID-19 or who may have been exposed to infected people.

--Editing by Alanna Weissman.

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

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