The Judicial Conference of the United States has recently revised its policy to expand remote audio access to civil and bankruptcy proceedings. This change allows judges presiding over these cases to provide the public with live audio access to non-trial proceedings that do not involve witness testimony. The revision comes as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the temporary exception allowing remote access to court proceedings expiring soon. While the revised policy aims to increase accessibility to the public, concerns regarding witness intimidation and the potential impact on the truth-finding mission of the courts are being studied. Please note that this policy change does not apply to criminal proceedings.
Judicial Conference Revises Policy to Expand Remote Audio Access
The Judicial Conference of the United States has recently revised its policy to expand remote audio access to civil and bankruptcy proceedings. This change comes as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to ensure the safety and accessibility of court proceedings. The revised policy allows for live audio access to non-trial proceedings, providing a way for the public to participate in court cases without being physically present in the courtroom.
Effective Date of the New Policy
The new policy will go into effect on September 22, 2023. This date marks the end of the temporary exception that was put in place during the pandemic when access to courthouses was restricted for health and safety reasons. The exception allowed for remote audio access to any civil or bankruptcy proceeding. With the new policy, this exception will no longer be necessary as remote audio access will be permanently permitted.
End of Temporary Exception
The temporary exception that allowed for remote audio access to civil and bankruptcy proceedings will expire on September 22, 2023. This exception was implemented during the pandemic to provide continued access to court proceedings while ensuring the safety of all involved. With the revised policy, remote audio access will become a permanent part of court proceedings.
Recommendation from the Committee on Court Administration and Case Management (CACM)
The revised policy was recommended by the Committee on Court Administration and Case Management (CACM), which is responsible for overseeing the administration and management of court cases. The committee has explored ways to expand remote public access and has considered concerns related to proceedings involving witness testimony. The CACM committee has received endorsements from related committees, including the Committee on the Administration of the Bankruptcy System and the Committee on the Administration of the Magistrate Judges System.
Concerns about Proceedings Involving Witness Testimony
One of the main concerns related to the expansion of remote audio access is its potential impact on proceedings involving witness testimony. The committee is studying whether remote public access to such proceedings could increase the potential for witness intimidation or complicate witness sequestration. It is crucial to ensure that trial proceedings are fair to all parties involved, and these concerns will be taken into consideration when implementing remote audio access.
Impact on Witness Intimidation and Witness Sequestration
The expanded remote audio access to court proceedings raises concerns about witness intimidation and witness sequestration. By allowing the public to have access to witness testimony remotely, there is a potential risk of intimidation or interference with the witnesses. Additionally, ensuring the sequestration of witnesses becomes more challenging when proceedings are accessible remotely. These factors will be carefully considered to maintain the integrity and fairness of court proceedings.
Impact on the Truth-Finding Mission of the Courts
One of the primary reasons courts exist is to find the truth in legal matters. The expansion of remote audio access raises questions about the impact it may have on this truth-finding mission. Allowing instant access to proceedings, where witness testimony can be altered based on public availability, introduces a potential obstacle to the court’s ability to ascertain the truth effectively. The potential influence on witness testimony will be considered to ensure the accuracy and reliability of court proceedings.
Exclusion of Criminal Proceedings
It’s important to note that the revised policy does not apply to criminal proceedings. The temporary permission to conduct criminal proceedings remotely, which was granted under the 2020 CARES Act, ended on May 10, 2023. Virtual criminal proceedings, except as otherwise authorized, have been discontinued by the courts. The expansion of remote audio access is limited to civil and bankruptcy proceedings.
Membership and Role of the Judicial Conference
The Judicial Conference is the policymaking body for the federal court system. It is composed of 26 members, with the Chief Justice of the United States serving as its presiding officer. The membership includes the chief judges of the 13 courts of appeals, a district judge from each of the 12 geographic circuits, and the chief judge of the Court of International Trade. The conference convenes twice a year to consider administrative and policy issues affecting the court system.
In conclusion, the revised policy to expand remote audio access to civil and bankruptcy proceedings will provide broader public access to court cases. While concerns about witness testimony, witness intimidation, and the truth-finding mission of the courts remain, the Committee on Court Administration and Case Management has carefully studied these issues. By allowing for remote access, the judicial system aims to prioritize safety, accessibility, and fairness in court proceedings.