This morning the Federal Circuit issued a precedential order concerning attorneys who violated the court’s protocols issued in light of COVID-19. Specifically, while the in-person oral argument protocols allowed only arguing counsel and no more than one attendee to be present, the parties in question brought two arguing counsel and two attendees in violation of the protocols. Notably, the court did not sanction the attorneys, but indicated that “the bar is on notice that this court takes compliance with these protocols very seriously and that sanctions will likely be imposed if a future violation of the protocols takes place.” Here is the introduction to the order.
In re Violation of the Revised Protocols (Precedential Order)
Respondents, who are members of this court’s bar, were ordered to show cause why disciplinary action should not be imposed for, inter alia, violating this court’s Revised Protocols for In-Person Arguments (August 12, 2021) (hereinafter, “the Revised Protocols”) and an order that denied their motion to allow additional attendees at oral argument. Having received the responses by Respondents, the court’s standing panel on attorney misconduct now considers whether to take disciplinary action.
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Despite these violations, because Respondents express earnest remorse, have not previously been accused of misconduct, and because this situation has not arisen before, we have decided not to impose sanctions. See In re Violation of Rule 50, 78 F.3d 574, 576 (Fed. Cir. 1996). However, the bar is on notice that this court takes compliance with these protocols very seriously and that sanctions will likely be imposed if a future violation of the protocols takes place. We have said that for this court “to get its work done,” it “must insist on strict compliance with its rules.” In re Violation of Rule 28(c), 388 F.3d 1383, 1385 (Fed. Cir. 2004). That sentiment applies with particular force to our instructions governing in-person arguments while the court and the bar continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic given the health and safety implications.