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In SDNY As Trials Pushed Back Details Published Here Press In But Access UNclear

By Matthew Russell Lee, Exclusive Patreon
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SDNY COURTHOUSE, March 13 -- A order staying all upcoming trials until April 27 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York went onto the docket past 6 pm on Friday, March 13. Inner City Press has uploaded it here.

  The order, by SDNY Chief Judge Colleen McMahon, extended the Speedy Trial Act time on all criminal cases in the District to April 27.

  Now Inner City Press publishes the detailed memo sent to SDNY lawyers, for transparency:

"From: Colleen McMahon [Chief Judge]
Sent: Friday, March 13, 2020 4:34 PM

 I want to bring you up to date on developments in our coronavirus response plan. I am sorry that this comes so late on Friday afternoon, but as I am sure you know, developments have unfolded rapidly, especially over the last 24 hours.  

  Effective Monday, March 16, 2020, the following protocols will be in place for the next 30 days, or until further notice:  

  No new jury trials, civil or criminal, will be permitted to commence in any of our three courthouses (Moynihan, Marshall, Brieant).    Jury trials that have already commenced will be concluded. Judges conducting those trials – there are five of you – have been provided with special information about meals and transportation to share with your jurors. 

  The running of speedy trial time will be suspended effective today due to the now-declared state of emergency and medical crisis.  

 Existing grand juries will continue to meet. We will consult with the USAO before deciding whether to try to empanel the April 2 grand jury.   

Until further notice, Magistrate’s Court will be conducted in its usual location on the Fifth Floor of the Moynihan Courthouse. If there are presentments in White Plains, they will be handled by the Duty Magistrate in White Plains.   

Until further notice, Part I will be staffed out of the Foley Square courthouses. FYI: next week’s duty judges are Swain (Monday, March 16); McMahon (Tuesday, March 17-Saturday, March 21).   

The courthouses will not be closed. However, only the following persons will be admitted:  judges, chambers staff, SDNY supervisory personnel (unit executives and managers), SDNY personnel who are on “skeleton” duty (see below), lawyers who have to appear in district court civil matters or before the Court of Appeals, Assistant United States Attorneys, defense lawyers, criminal defendants and members of their families, persons who have been directed to report to Probation and PreTrial Services, visitors to the Pro Se Clinic in the Marshall Courthouse, and credentialed courthouse press. No one who does not have case-related business in the courthouse will be permitted to enter. Even persons who are otherwise authorized to enter must pass the screening protocol, which can be found in the Second Amended Standing Order in the matter now entitled In re Coronavirus/COVID-19 Pandemic (M-10-468), entered today.    Any Clerk’s Office Staff who are authorized to telework must telework.   

Other Clerk’s Office staff functions that must continue in the courthouses will be staffed by a skeleton crew. Your manager or supervisor will be able to identify whether you are needed to work at the courthouse; you may be asked to work a day and then to stay home for several days. Each director, manager or supervisor has been asked to create a schedule for next week’s operations.   

Docket clerks will be teleworking and plan to meet our same day docketing goals. Pro se filings will be docketed within 72 hours of receipt.    Individuals will continue to report  to Probation and  Pre-Trial services as directed. Your unit executive or Chief Deputy will tell you whether you are to report to work. You may be asked to work in the courthouse for a day and then to stay home for a day or two.  Because of the lateness of the hour, you will be contacted over the weekend if you are expected to report to work in a courthouse next week. All other Probation and PreTrial services officers and staff will telework.   

District Executive’s Staff will report to work as directed by the DE.    Interpreters and court reporters will report as directed. We must have at least two Spanish interpreters on duty at all times; other interpreting needs will depend on whether judges are holding criminal proceedings. We re canvassing  on a daily basis to see how many court reporters will be needed for the next day.   

Members of our courthouse staff who have been advised by their health care providers that they are not required to be at the courthouse. Please stay home and take care of yourself.   

All personnel who are not ordered to report to the courthouse or authorized to telework will be placed on administrative leave with pay.    Chambers staff and courtroom deputy clerks will follow the instructions of their judges.   

Mail will not be delivered. Chambers staff can pick up mail from the mail room. We will try to send out an email blast when mail is ready for pick up.    Cafeteria operations may be curtailed or suspended...   

I am tremendously proud of all of you for the great work you have done over the last two weeks. It is only going to get harder as we are forced to separate. Never forget: we are a court of law; and law enforcement, whether that be criminal law enforcement or the enforcement of the rights of our civil litigants, is a 24/7/365 operation --  virus or no virus. But we have weathered two great crises during my years on the court – 9/11 and Superstorm Sandy – and we never lost a beat. I know that on the happy day when we can all gather together in our workplace again, we will not have fallen behind on our work – because this really is the best district court staff in the world." Agreed.

  Things will remain the same, thankfully, for criminal presentments in the SDNY Magistrates Court, which Inner City Press stayed covering until past 6 pm on March 13. Despite rumors, the order wisely does not seek to restrict press access to the courthouses or proceedings.

  Chief Judge McMahon's order encourages court hearings by telephone and video. It does not explain, however, how the press will have the access to which it is has a right, in order to inform the public, to such hearings. We aim to have more on this: watch this site.

Earlier on March 13 a well placed defense lawyer in the SDNY told Inner City Press that "the jails are being closed for 30 days."

  Further inquiry by Inner City Press with other SDNY lawyers confirmed "no legal or medical visits for thirty days, nationwide." Several defense lawyer told Inner City Press it is an outrage and will undermine their clients' rights.

 A quick check-in at the SDNY Magistrates Court found an Assistant US Attorney arguing for the remand to the Metropolitan Correctional Center of a defendant named Sepulveda. 

 Earlier on March 13 SDNY Magistrate Judge Ona T. Wang, with Inner City Press the only media in the Mag courtroom, said without the court reporter transcribed that "This court will remain open [albeit] with social distancing." 

Also on March 13 in SDNY Courtroom 15A Inner City Press came up a witness testifying by video to a Federal trial elsewhere, seemingly to avoid travel. The times they are a changing. Watch this site. 


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