Close Michigan Courts Except for Emergencies and Protect Members of the Bar and the Public
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Dear Governor Whitmer, Chief Judges, and the State Bar of Michigan:
We are attorneys who work throughout the State of Michigan. Some of us are already immunocompromised. Many of us represent clients who are immunocompromised. Some of us are in the especially at-risk age group of 60 and older. Others simply share support and concern not only for our colleagues, but every member of the public coming in and out of of Courts, which includes police officers, court staff and clerks, plaintiffs, defendants, and thousands upon thousands of members of the public.
We are extremely concerned that keeping the courts open when Governor Whitmer has declared a State of Emergency is the wrong practice. We understand that in some emergency instances that certain matters must be brought before the Court. But other than these emergencies, we believe that all matters, both civil and criminal, should be adjourned to prevent any further spread of COVID-19 until there is greater clarity how the pandemic will impact the State of Michigan.
Various courts that are not practicing social distancing are having members of the public and members of the state bar needlessly risk infection or potentially spreading the COVID-19 virus. This is extremely reckless and irresponsible during this pandemic and goes directly against Governor Whitmer’s advice and suggestions, as well as President Trump's administration, particularly Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the administration's response to the crisis. Dr. Fauci is the the nation's leading infectious disease expert. He has painted a very dire picture unless institutions such as ours act fast. Dr. Fauci, who has earned the respect of people across the political spectrum, both Republican, Democrat, and Independent, has stated we are already behind. Every day we fail to implement necessary safeguards is another day we are needlessly putting the public at risk.
Dr. Fauci has stated: "We need to be very serious about -- for a while, life is not going to be the way it used to be in the United States. We have to just accept that if we want to do what's best for the American public."
Some courts may believe this situation is driven by fear and panic, or is an overblown concern. We who are signing this petition are simply responding to the science and asking that we prepare and mitigate the dangers that have already arrived at our doorstep. Preparation is not panic. Prudence is not panic. As leaders, we must act with what is in the best interest of the public and the people we serve. No attorney signing this enjoys the disruptions to our businesses and our schedules. Those of us in private practice will undoubtedly see some or even significant financial impact. And our courts will undoubtedly face great logistical challenges.
But the protection of the public and our colleagues is far more important than moving the docket. While we appreciate the guidance issued thus far from the state Supreme Court for court operations, it simply does not go far enough. Especially in a time of great uncertainty, we cannot err on the side of half-measures. Under the current guidance, courts that are continuing with business as usual, or even modified schedules and priorities are putting people needlessly at risk.
We respectfully ask that Chief Judges of our courts exercise their discretion to follow suit with their other colleagues on the bench who have already suspended all court operations except for absolute essential matters. We also respectfully ask the State Bar of Michigan, Governor Whitmer, and other individuals in positions of leadership to use their influence to implement a uniform standard throughout our state sooner rather than later for the sake of public policy and public protection.
There is still time to act to see that we do not wind up in a situation similar to Italy, or that we can at the very least minimize any potential further exposures. Please act now.
Edit: March 15 5:00PM - While we appreciate the Governor's March 15, 2020 Order "In Re Emergency Procedures in Court Facilities" regarding what courts "may" or "should" do, it only further increases our concern that various courts will continue to choose measures that will not go far enough in protecting the public.
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