Shut, Shuttered or Down to Essential Personnel

October 7, 2013, 4:17 PM

As the partial shutdown of the federal government enters its second week, many are asking what will happen to the Federal Court System in Eastern District of Virginia. In many other governmental operations, the shutdown was almost immediate. Not in the Eastern District: according to the long term plan, the United States Federal Court System will operate for 10 days on available funds. "All things considered, I think everybody feels fortunate to be here for the next 10 days, because that's not the case everywhere in the federal government," said Fernando Galindo, the Clerk of the Federal Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, which has courts in Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond and Alexandria. After that, if the shutdown continues, only those deemed "essential" will report to work, and work without pay until Congress passes a spending bill. But who's "essential" in the court system is still a matter of discussion that's being ironed out by judges and court officials, Galindo said. "Moving cases, docketing cases and making sure that the work of the court continues, we have a lot of essential people, if not all essential people," he said.[1]

As to what will happen, much remains to be determined. According to Lawyers Weekly, [o]n or around Oct. 15, thefederal judiciary will reassess its situation and provide further guidance, according to the administrative office of the U.S. courts. All proceedings and deadlines remain in effect as scheduled, unless otherwise advised. The Courts [electronic filing system--Case Management/Electronic Case Files--] will remain in operation for the electronic filing of documents with courts, according to the federal judiciary. Rumor has it that many of the clerks offices are already reeling from the recent sequestration and that the partial government shutdown is only making things worse. Only time and an unwilling Congress will tell. Until then, it is business as usualwell, sort of!

Stephen E. Noona is the head of Kaufman & Canoles Trial Section and Co-chair of its Intellectual Property Law and Franchising Practice Group. He has been counsel in over ninety (90) patent cases in the Eastern District, is Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers and has appeared before the judges in all four Divisions of the Eastern District on patent and intellectual property matters.


[1] The Daily Press, October 1, 2013.