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Federal courts in Az to close, pending cases continued during coronavirus outbreak

Federal courthouses in Tucson, Yuma and Phoenix will winding down operations on Monday, with closings prompted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Cases that were scheduled to begin before April 10 will be delayed, and ongoing jury trials will be completed.

"This general order is being issued in response to the recent outbreak of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and the well-documented concern surrounding this virus," wrote Chief U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow. Snow noted that the White House and Arizona's Governor Doug Ducey had declared a public health emergency. 

This covers the Evo A. DeConcini Courthouse in Downtown Tucson, Sandra Day O’Connor U.S. Courthouse in Phoenix, and John M. Roll Courthouse in Yuma. 

"In order to protect public health through the aim of reducing the size of public gatherings, as well as balancing the fair administration of justice," Snow ordered for cases to be continued "pending further order of the Court." 

"Individual judges presiding over criminal proceedings may take such actions consistent with this order as may be lawful and appropriate to ensure the fairness of the proceedings and preserve the rights of the parties," he wrote. 

"The Court may issue other orders concerning future continuances as necessary and appropriate," Snow wrote. "Trials that have already begun shall be completed," he said. 

Snow addressed concerns that by putting cases aside for the next several weeks, this would violate their Sixth Amendment rights. 

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"Due to the Court’s reduced ability to obtain an adequate spectrum of jurors and the effect of the public health recommendations on the availability of counsel and Court staff to be present in the courtroom, the time period of the continuances implemented by this General Order will be excluded under the Speedy Trial Act," he said. "The Court specifically finds that the ends of justice served by ordering the continuances outweigh the best interests of the public and any defendant’s right to a speedy trial." 

"Any motion by a criminal defendant seeking an exception to this order in order to exercise that right should be directed to the District Judge assigned to the matter," he said. 

"Individual judges may continue trial-specific deadlines in civil cases at their discretion," Snow wrote. 

This includes all civil and criminal jury trials that were scheduled to begin on or before April 10, 2020. And, all trial-specific deadlines in criminal cases are continued as well. 

This includes cases on immigration violations, including illegal entry that are processed by the court under Operation Streamline, the fast-track court procedure, according to Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy secretary for Homeland Security. Cuccinelli continues to work at DHS, and as the acting director for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services despite a court ruling that he was illegally put into the position. 

Probation offices, pretrial services, and other court services will remain open. However, Snow's order also includes all "non-case related activities" scheduled at the courts." including naturalization ceremonies, attorney admission ceremonies, mock trials, CLE events, school tours, and all other non-case related gatherings." 

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Tucson's Evo A. DeConcini U.S. Courthouse, Downtown.