I am writing to urge that our state close all Courts for non-essential matters to encourage “social distancing.”
A member of our legal profession from New Rochelle has been in critical care with this illness for ten days now. He infected all of the members of his family and others in his community. It is a serious illness.
The coronavirus crisis is just starting in the United States, and I believe that we all need to do our part to pitch in and slow down the spread of this pandemic. Defendants who have routine criminal cases pending are required by law to attend court dates. Criminal courts are filled with up to 120 defendants and their family members, all of whom must interact with the court marshalls at security checkpoints. All of these areas are potential points of infection. People who are mildly sick may feel compelled to attend the court, or they may face a re-arrest order and thus expose others to the risk of infection. These individuals may not realize that they can contact the Clerk and request a continuance or even realize that they should self-quarantine when they are ill.
The time to act is now to increase social distancing in all areas. Social distancing is the best defense to slow down the spread of this horrible illness and the infection of millions of people. Colleges, schools, sports teams, car shows, concert arenas, stock exchanges, and other venues are all canceling public gatherings all over the United States to help slow down the spread of coronavirus.
I propose that the judicial branch close the courts in Connecticut to all non-essential hearings. Just as colleges and corporations have quickly implemented online teaching and commerce, the courts should embrace technology and consider the use of telephone or video conferencing for court appearances while we are fighting this virus. If Google can run its entire operation of 100,000 workers by sending them to work from home to prevent the spread of this pandemic, then surely our court system can implement common-sense measures to prevent a place of justice from becoming an unsafe place where people spread illness and make others sick. By limiting court appearances to essential matters like arrangements, bond reductions, sentencing arguments, and other critical matters, the risk of the spread of infection could be significantly reduced. Non-essential matters could be postponed for a few weeks or handled by a telephone or video conference until the coronavirus situation is under better control.
Finally, the state should consider lowering the bonds for indigent defendants who are incarcerated in jail awaiting trial. Prisons possibly are going to become very critical zones for the spread of this illness. Inmates and corrections officers are all going to face danger if this illness spreads.