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Has COVID-19 Impacted the Federal Courts?

Posted by John Rogers | Mar 08, 2021

In March 2020, the Chief Presiding Judge of the Central District of California issued an Order suspending both criminal and civil jury trials until further notice. The Order aimed to combat the spread of the contagious virus, COVID-19. Since the March 2020 Order, no jury trial has taken place.

The Court has enacted programs allowing defendants, attorneys, and court staff to appear via video teleconference. This allows defendants to continue litigating parts of their case with the exception of trial. Indeed, all motions, sentencing hearings, change of plea hearings, and other status conferences are heard via Zoom.

There was a period where the Order suspended the grand jury from convening. This means the U.S. Attorney's Office could not seek to charge a defendant by way of grand jury indictment. Recently, however, the grand jury has reconvened and it's currently hearing investigations.

The problem is the backlog of cases and trials that have been lingering since the beginning of the pandemic. Once the court resumes operations, judges may be overwhelmed with the number of trials that will be held for those defendants whom have been patiently waiting for more than a year. The federal court will be impacted for months, but more like years.

Federal prosecutors foresee this predicament. They must allot resources and available attorneys to handle the trials that are expected once the court resumes normal protocol. This explains why prosecutors have been offering a two-level downward variance in plea agreements in exchange for a guilty plea during the pandemic. If a defendant is not brought to trial within the agreed time period between the parties, then case will be dismissed. Only time will tell whether that will occur.

If you have been arrested or charged with a federal offense, then contact our office to schedule a confidential consultation with an experienced federal criminal defense attorney.

About the Author

John Rogers

*State Bar Board Certified Specialist in Criminal Law *Top 40 Under 40 by the National Trial Lawyers Association *Selected “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers Magazine *Federal Criminal Defense Representation Nationwide *Personalized Attention & 24/7 Accessibility


Orange County federal crimes lawyer John Rogers is committed to providing exceptional representation all throughout California federal courts.

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