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D.C. Superior Court will remain closed for most purposes

Jamison KoehlerCovid-19 pandemic, D.C. Superior Court

With the pandemic continuing to rage, and no end in sight, D.C. Superior Court will remain closed for most purposes through January 15, 2021.  This was the primary effect of an order issued by Chief Judge Anita Josey-Herring on November 5, 2020. What this means is summarized below. 

All statutory and rules-based time limits will continue to be “suspended, tolled and extended.”  For example, the time period between March 18, 2020 and January 15, 2021 will not count in the time calculation with respect to a defendant’s speedy trial rights.  The statute of limitations for criminal offenses and time requirements with respect to preliminary hearings and indictment will continue to be tolled. 

Citation arraignments and status hearings for non-detained defendants will be pushed back beyond January 15, 2021.  For example, a status hearing originally scheduled for November 10, 2020 has been rescheduled for April 13, 2021.  

To the extent any criminal cases will move forward, the hearings will be either remote (with all participants by Webex or phone) or partially remote (with only the judge and defendant present in the courtroom).  Preliminary hearings for some detained defendants, emergency bond reviews, and pre-trial and probation show cause hearing will be held remotely or partially remotely.  

Sentencings will be continued beyond January 15 unless all parties agree to an earlier date.  

The Metropolitan Police Department and other D.C. law enforcement agencies will continue to have increased authority to release suspects in advance of their arraignment. 

The Criminal Division hopes to resume non-jury trials in misdemeanor cases for defendants who are being detained on the charges.  The trials will be held in a partially remote courtroom.  There are no plans to resume jury trials at this time.  

The Criminal Division will also schedule “motion hearings in detained cases in which the parties agree that the motion will be dispositive.”  For example, the Court will hold hearings on motions to suppress evidence in cases in which the Court’s ruling will determine the outcome of the case.  If the defendant prevails on the motion, the government will dismiss the charges.  If the Courts denies the motion, the defendant will agree to a stipulated trial or guilty plea.  

Partially remote courtrooms will include:

–C10 (arraignments, presentments, bench warrant returns and extraditions); 

–Room 112 (non-evidentiary hearings to include pretrial and probation show cause hearings and walk-in bench warrants); 

–Rooms 203, 211, and 215 (preliminary hearings for detained defendants);

–Rooms 201, 202 and 316 (detained non-jury trials and dispositive motion hearings).

Remote courtrooms will include:

–Room 111 (non-detained matters, including entry and completion of deferred prosecution and sentencing agreements, dispositions, show cause hearings and sentencings); 

–Room 115 (remote detained substantive non-evidentiary matters, including emergency bond review motions);

–Room 210 (remote detention hearings and other detained substantive non-evidentiary matters;

–Room 213 (remote detained substantive non-evidentiary matters in the morning, including dispositions, waivers of preliminary hearings, sentencings, etc, and, in the afternoon, detained initial scheduling conferences with the defendant’s appearance waived);

–Rooms 218 and 311 (remote detained matters from the Department of Youth Services and the Bureau of Prisons for substantive non-evidentiary matters and non-detained matters before the case judge);

–Room 220 (remote non-emergency probation show cause hearings);

–Room 312 (remote non-detained matters prosecuted by the Office of the U.S. Attorney, including entry or completion of deferred prosecution or sentencing agreements, dispositions and sentencings);

–Room 313 (remote non-detained matters prosecuted by the Office of the Attorney General, including entry or completion of deferred prosecution or sentencing agreements, dispositions and sentencings);

–Rooms 314 and 321 (remote scheduling hearings in detained matters previously scheduled with the defendant’s appearance waived); and

–Room 317 (remote mental observation and contested competency hearings from St. Elizabeth’s Hospital).