Judicial Conference Revises Policy Involving Remote Audio Access

The Judicial Conference of the United States approved Sept. 12 a change to its broadcast policy that expands the public’s access to civil and bankruptcy proceedings over the judiciary’s longstanding pre-COVID policy, which prohibited all remote public access to federal court proceedings, a news release announced.

The revised policy, which was adopted at the conference’s biennial meeting, will allow judges presiding over civil and bankruptcy cases to provide the public live audio access to non-trial proceedings that don’t involve witness testimony, the news release explained.

The new policy will begin Sept. 22, immediately after the expiration of the temporary exception that was put into place by the judiciary when access to courthouses was restricted for health and safety reasons, the news release noted. The exception let judges permit remote audio access to any civil or bankruptcy proceeding, the announcement continued. 

The conference adopted the revised policy based on the recommendation of its Committee on Court Administration and Case Management, with the endorsement of the Committee on the Administration of the Bankruptcy System and the Committee on the Administration of the Magistrate Judges System, the news release noted.

The announcement explained the CACM Committee is exploring possible ways to further expand remote public access to civil and bankruptcy proceedings and examining concerns about the possible impact on proceedings involving witness testimony. 

The change approved Sept. 12 doesn’t extend to criminal proceedings, the press release added. Temporary permission to conduct some criminal proceedings by videoconference or teleconference, which had been granted under the 2020 CARES Act, ended May 10, the press release continued. 

Courts have already discontinued the use of virtual criminal proceedings, except as otherwise authorized, the announcement added, and the revision also doesn’t affect a judge’s ability to allow parties and counsel to appear remotely by teleconference and videoconference.

The 26-member Judicial Conference is the policy-making body for the federal court system and by statute, the Chief Justice of the United States serves as its presiding officer and its members are 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 press release noted.

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