COVID-19 Emergency Response: Courts

Judges and Court Officials should take the following actions to end the spread of COVID-19 within their communities while there is a pandemic:

  • Follow these guidelines for keeping the community safe, both in and out of jail, when considering bail applications and post-conviction motions to modify sentences.
  • Default to noncustodial sentences wherever possible, including resolutions that avoid immigration detention where outbreak potential is highest.
  • Decline to issue “failure to appear” warrants or “bench warrants.”
  • If requested by defense counsel, agree to waive clients’ appearance for status court dates (for people both in and out of custody).
  • Cancel all probation, parole, and pretrial meetings; court-ordered classes; in-person drug testing; collection of court debt; and modify all reporting conditions to phone-reporting.
  • Cancel probation or parole revocation hearings based on technical violations upon request of defense counsel and release those held in custody pending hearings on signature bonds.
  • Ensure that people in custody receive a constitutionally-mandated speedy trial.
  • Direct any failures to comply with local quarantine orders to the civil court system, not the criminal court system.
  • Press prosecutors for a public health/COVID-19-informed justification for any actions/requests that would bring folks into courthouses, jails, and prisons. Ensure those justifications are on the record for public scrutiny.
  • Extend unlimited paid sick leave to all employees that work at the court.

Download the PDF: