Federal courts in the Eastern District of Virginia, which includes Richmond, have suspended all non-case related events, tours and other gatherings in courthouses, including naturalization ceremonies, as well as misdemeanor cases.
Chief Judge Mark S. Davis, in Norfolk, noted in a special order posted Thursday that there have been confirmed or presumptive cases of coronavirus within the Alexandria, Richmond and Norfolk divisions of the court and there have been reports of people scheduled to appear in court who are under self-quarantine based on possible exposure.
“All misdemeanor, traffic and petty offense dockets scheduled in all Divisions of this Court through April 30, 2020, are hereby continued,” says the order. New dates will be reset without the need to file any motions.
The delays caused by the continuances will be excluded from requirements of the Speedy Trial Act as the “ends of justice served” outweigh the defendants’ right to a speedy trial, according to the order.
“In exceptional circumstances, any judge in the Court may make a case-specific exception to the District-wide continuance if the parties and counsel agree that there is a valid case-specific reason to proceed with a hearing,” the order says.
No changes have been made to the courts’ civil or criminal felony dockets. The courthouses and clerks’ offices remain open.
Davis said the court will decide in the near future whether to resume naturalization ceremonies in April or postpone them further. Anyone with concerns or questions about the decision to postpone the naturalization ceremonies are asked to contact U.S. Customs and Immigration Services.
Davis cautioned that changing circumstances and the threat posed by COVID-19 may require further responses.