Last week, the Federal Circuit issued a Notice Concerning the Conducting and Scheduling of Oral Argument. In it, the court announced that it has suspended all in-person arguments until further notice. In addition, the court announced that cases set for argument after the June 2020 session will be argued telephonically unless otherwise notified by a separate order that oral argument is unnecessary. The court also issued an order on point.
In the notice, the court also said that it will otherwise continue to schedule cases on the court’s calendar under existing procedures. The notice indicates that the court is taking these measures as part of continuing efforts to operate “in response to ongoing public health emergencies and to provide greater predictability to counsel appearing before this court.”
As mentioned, the notice related to a court order. The order clarifies the court’s justification for continuing to hold all arguments telephonically. Citing the Federal Judiciary COVID-19 Recovery Guidelines and the court’s national jurisdiction, it explains that “[c]ounsel appearing in cases before this court are currently subject to various approaches to, and timeframes for, community recovery and reopening, which may impact their ability to travel for argument.” The order also states that the court would be suspending all in-person arguments until further notice “in the interest of providing greater predictability to counsel appearing before this court.” In short, the order eliminates the need for the court to continue issuing monthly orders suspending in-person arguments. It also recognizes that the court’s decisions to hold in-person oral arguments should depend not only on how the coronavirus pandemic impacts the Washington DC area, but also how it impacts the entire country given the court’s nationwide jurisdiction.