Administration of Justice Bulletin #2020/03

Indigent Defense Attorneys and COVID-19: FAQs About Practicing During a Pandemic

Monday, September 14, 2020

The pandemic has forced defense attorneys to confront even tougher choices than usual in a profession that is known for them. Face-to-face interactions during client meetings, witness interviews, court appearances, and simply running the business of an office are integral to most lawyers’ practices, and the virus has upended the ability to do them all. Some defense attorneys, concerned they are in a cohort that makes them particularly vulnerable to the disease, have determined they will not return to a courtroom until a vaccine is available, regardless of when courts resume normal operations. Many who have resolved to continue working are concerned about the impact that advocating for their own health and safety may have on their clients, cases, and standing with the court.

Through a series of questions and answers, this bulletin discusses and attempts to respond to many of the concerns that have been expressed by defense attorneys related to COVID-19 and in-person proceedings in courtrooms, which have continued to operate as vectors for the virus’s spread even during a period of limited operations. The questions and answers are broken into three main parts, in B. through D. below:

  • rules, recommendations, and best practices for dealing with COVID-19 in the courtroom;
  • availability of accommodations for attorneys; and
  • courts’ authority over attorneys.


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Public Officials - Courts and Judicial Administration Roles
Topics - Courts and Judicial Administration
Public Officials - Local and State Government Roles