Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Courts Need More Support To Weather the Coronavirus Pandemic
Press Release

Washington, D.C. — The Trump administration must work with Congress to ensure that court systems across the country continue to function in the face of the ongoing pandemic, according to a new analysis from the Center for American Progress.

“As the number of COVID-19 cases grows, court systems are facing rapidly growing challenges in keeping essential services running,” said Maggie Jo Buchanan, director of Legal Progress at CAP and author of the column. “Without significant action, this could lead to serious delays of justice and dangerous public health risks for those who must work in, and access, the country’s courthouses.”

So far, there has been a patchwork of approaches to address the coronavirus crisis, ranging from shutting down almost all court functions to making virtually no change in court operations. Congress has offered some support, mostly at the federal criminal level, but there is much more that needs to be done—particularly at the local and state level, where more than 90 percent of cases are heard.

The column makes the following recommendations:

  • Immediate steps should be taken to ensure that lawyers, staff, and parties appearing in court are protected during trials, arguments, and other courthouse proceedings.
  • Guidance is needed for remote court services that protect individuals’ constitutional rights and further the courts’ abilities to conduct their work safely.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court must be transparent in how it will deal with postponed oral arguments and any emergency filings made in the months to come.
  • Greater efforts must be made to ensure the public knows what court services are still available, particularly in dangerous situations such as individuals facing domestic abuse.
  • The administration must establish ways to further safely reduce the incarceration of people who do not pose a danger to society.

Read the column: “The Pressing Need To Support Courts During the Coronavirus Crisis” by Maggie Jo Buchanan.

To find the latest CAP resources on the coronavirus, visit our coronavirus resource page.

For more information or to talk to an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at [email protected] or 202-478-6327.