The sunset of the national emergency declaration for COVID-19 could have some significant consequences for litigants in the federal courts, possibly rolling back some of the cost-savings and convenience spurred by remote proceedings.

The chief judges of California’s four federal districts discussed the possible adjustment period on the horizon during a panel discussion at a class action conference in San Diego last week. Without some rule changes from the federal judiciary’s policy-setting body or legislative moves from Congress, the judges said remote court proceedings provided for under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, could start to go away in the months after the national emergency expires—a date the Biden Administration has set for May 11. Federal criminal proceedings could be affected 30 days after the end of the national emergency, with the grace period extending to 120 days for civil proceedings. 

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