Law360, the US Tax Court said it will conduct remote proceedings during its fall trial calendar session because of the novel coronavirus pandemic and will allow the public to listen to the sessions.
The court issued an administrative order Friday setting procedures for holding remote proceedings. Tax Court Judge Cary Pugh told Law360 on Monday that it is unclear what cities around the country will be accessible for proceedings in the fall, so the court can't follow its usual practice of sending judges to different cities for trials.
Under the remote procedures, "the parties have a lead time to work the cases out, and we have some certainty with scheduling," Judge Pugh said.
"We can't just keep having a backlog," the judge said. "Parties
come to Tax Court to have their cases resolved, and this is the safest way we
can do it."
The Tax Court previously canceled trial sessions for March and April because of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The court then closed its building in Washington, D.C., but still allowed people to file petitions and other documents to abide by statutory deadlines. Mail sent to the building is being held until the court reopens.
The audio feed will allow journalists and the public to listen to the proceedings, similar to how other federal courts are conducting virtual sessions, Judge Pugh said. The U.S. Supreme Court has been holding oral arguments by teleconference.
Parties must still participate in pretrial matters such as scheduled conference calls and pretrial calls; otherwise a judge may dismiss a case and enter a decision against the nonparticipating party, according to the order.
The order also adjusted certain trial deadlines. Before the pandemic, the court required parties to send a pretrial memo 14 days ahead of trial, but that memo is now due 21 days ahead of trial, according to the order. Pretrial memos are also now required to be filed for small tax cases, or those with $50,000 or less at stake, 21 days in advance, more than the previous seven days before trial.
On Friday the Tax Court also issued an administrative order that supersedes prior procedures for limited entry of appearances by attorneys representing clients before the court. Normally, an entry of appearance at the court is effective until a case is resolved, or the court grants an attorney's motion to withdraw. In 2019, the court began to allow limited entries of appearance during a trial session specific to the dates when the representation would be in effect.
Judge Pugh told Law360 that the court spent a lot of time coming up with the
procedures but that they may change depending on their effectiveness and
comments from other judges and practitioners.
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