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Monitoring the Reopening

Case numbers are falling. Vaccination is proceeding. We may be on track for a return to in-person jury trials in federal court. The question is: When will we get there? Today, we have three bits of news on that topic: On Friday, the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois continued the suspension of jury trials through April 5, 2021. Also on Friday, the US District Court for the District of Minnesota continued the suspension of jury trials through May 2, 2021. In the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, Judge Lorna Schofield has set a major patent infringement jury trial for May 3. Notably, however, the April 23 final pre-trial conference is telephonic.

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It’s Not Just the Pandemic, Unfortunately.

Even though jury trials are, with limited exceptions, on hold, many federal courthouses have managed to stay open throughout this winter surge of the virus. But as we know all too well here in Washington, DC, the pandemic is only one obstacle to normalcy. We just received this order from the US District Court for the District of Minnesota: Due to security threats made against federal buildings and courthouses in the District of Minnesota, the United States Courthouses located in St. Paul, Minneapolis and Fergus Falls will be closed from 12:00 a.m. on Sunday, January 17, 2021, through 5:00 a.m. on Thursday, January 21, 2021. At the United States Courthouse located in Duluth, the US District Court, US Bankruptcy Court and US Probation and Pretrial Office will be closed for the same period. The court has consulted with the US Marshal's Service and the General Services Administration in making this decision. We expect to see other such orders in the next several...

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Content May Soon Run Out

What will we write about when all the courts have closed? We are rapidly on the way to finding out, especially in the federal system. Here’s a summary of recent federal district court orders on jury trials: Eastern District of Arkansas: Civil and criminal jury trials scheduled before January 15, 2021 are continued to a later date. District of Colorado: Civil and criminal jury trials scheduled before January 8, 2021 are continued to a later date. Northern District of Illinois: Civil and criminal jury trials suspended indefinitely. Central District of Illinois: Civil and criminal jury trials suspended and shall be reset for a date after January 25, 2021. Southern District of Illinois: Civil and criminal jury trials set through January 24, 2021 are cancelled and will be reset. Northern District of Indiana: All jury trials scheduled to begin before January 29, 2021, are continued and will be rescheduled by the presiding judge “unless the presiding judge, in their...

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Minnesota Resumes Federal Trials, but Are They Safe?

The US District Court for the District of Minnesota resumed federal trials this week, with a civil bench trial and a criminal jury trial. Mask and sterilization procedures were followed. The lawyers had headphones that they could use to speak with each other and to replace sidebars. The jury trial is a short, single-defendant trial, and the case is set to go to the jury today. The resumption of jury trials in the district is not without controversy, however. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports: Not all experts agree it is safe enough, noting that barriers and masks can block larger droplets produced by coughing but are not as useful in stopping the spread of smaller particles that circulate from breathing and talking.   Dr. Lisa M. Brosseau, an industrial hygienist at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said there still should be no jury trials.   “People should not be spending a lot of time in a...

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 McDermott’s litigation team monitors US courts as they reopen amid the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis.

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