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Weekly roundup: Legal news from around the country

This week’s highlights

  • Federal judge strikes down federal eviction moratorium
  • Florida lifts most COVID-related courthouse restrictions
  • Several BigLaw firms announce office reopening dates
  • California judges are prohibited from giving legal advice to family
  • The Atlantic asks “can justice be served on Zoom?”

Federal judge strikes down federal eviction moratorium

“A federal judge has issued a sweeping ruling that would revoke a pandemic eviction moratorium put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” (NPR)

In a ruling issued Wednesday U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich vacated the CDC order first put in place last year at the height of the pandemic and set to expire June 30.

In a 20-page order, Judge Friedrich wrote “It is the role of the political branches, and not the courts, to assess the merits of policy measures designed to combat the spread of disease… The question for the Court is a narrow one: Does the Public Health Service Act grant the CDC the legal authority to impose a nationwide eviction moratorium? It does not.”

The ruling does not affect state or local eviction moratoriums, such as California’s SB-91, which remains in effect through the summer. The Department of Justice is appealing the decision.

Florida lifts most COVID related courthouse restrictions

“Those entering a courthouse in Florida will no longer be required to wear a mask or undergo temperature checks or health screenings to check for signs of the coronavirus.” (Tampa Bay Times)

Florida’s Chief Justice amended pandemic-related orders to end restrictions to enter and move through public parts of courthouses throughout the state. The amended order keeps in place mask and distancing requirements during in-person courtroom proceedings only.

“The changes I make today reflect the current state of the pandemic while maintaining appropriate safeguards as we move toward the time when all Floridians eligible for vaccination will have had the opportunity to become fully vaccinated,” Chief Justice Canady said.

Several BigLaw firms announce office reopening dates

“While many BigLaw firms were financially successful with remote work, firms are keen to get their people back in the high-class office space that has defined law firm culture for decades.” (Bloomberg)

Large law firms are beginning the transition back to the office after more than a year of working almost entirely from home. In the past week, more than a dozen firms have announced plans to return to the office “at least some of week” by Labor Day.

Reed Smith, for example, announced plans Thursday to reopen all its 17 domestic offices by early September. While Reed Smith’s lawyers will not be required to work a certain number of days in the office, the firm did say they will be expected to “maintain a regular presence.”

The American Lawyer is providing firm-by-firm coverage of law firm announcements on their website.

California judges are prohibited from giving legal advice to family

“California judicial oversight officials drew a hard line on judges giving even routine legal help to family members, saying the practice is prohibited under the state constitution.” (Law360).

In a formal ethics opinion issued Thursday the California Supreme Court Committee on Judicial Ethics Opinions (CJEO) reiterated that judges must not practice law and offers guidance about what advice judges may give family members when asked for legal assistance.

The formal opinion is posted on CJEO’s website.

The Atlantic asks “can justice be served on Zoom?”

“Concerns about access, and the quality of that access, are real. But the digital divide has proved narrower than feared, largely thanks to the prevalence of smartphones.” (The Atlantic)

In the past year, U.S. courts have conducted millions of hearings, conferences, and even trials over Zoom or other online video platforms. In The Atlantic’s May edition Eric Scigliano considers whether “virtual justice” is a temporary emergency response, or likely to survive after the crisis abates.


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