Partner Mike Showalter discussed the potential long-term effects of the recent government shutdown on time-sensitive cases pending in federal courts when funding for those courts has run out. During the recently ended shutdown, the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts said criminal cases would move forward without interruption, but it did not address civil litigation.
Mike said that the Civil Justice Reform Act may offer clues. Though it doesn’t specifically address government shutdowns, the statute requires courts to report certain lag times in dockets. After handling urgent requests for preliminary injunctions or restraining orders, courts might look to the reform act factors when prioritizing civil matters.
Even with sufficient funding, environmental litigation was facing disruptions. Many U.S. Department of Justice attorneys were furloughed when the shutdown began, stalling cases involving government agencies.
Mike said the litigation delays were inconvenient to the environmental industry, even in cases where they'd rather not see environmentalists' arguments advance.
"Businesses need to plan and do things, and holding things in abeyance forever, it's not like there's Blackbeard the pirate trying to hoard a chest of money," he said. "It's people inside of business or inside of a group who are just trying to do their jobs. They need to know whether to make a left turn or a right turn."
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