Honestly, when America entered the lockdown era, I figured we’d eventually get a story about some hyper-aggressive jackhole attorney refusing to concede to a continuance just because the other side was struck down with COVID-19. It seemed inevitable since petty, overcompensating attorneys far outnumber even asymptomatic carriers in this country. What I never saw coming was a judge shooting down an uncontested request from someone laid up with COVID-19.
Judge Greg Guidry is one of those newcomers to the federal bench rammed through the Judiciary Committee on a party line vote and now sits in the Eastern District of Louisiana. Earlier this month, an attorney filed a motion that began:
For the week prior to March 27, 2020, counsel was experiencing fevers of between 102 degrees to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. On March 27, 2020, undersigned counsel for Fieldwood was hospitalized with the Covid-19 virus. On April 1, 2020, counsel was discharged from the hospital. Nevertheless, doctor’s orders were for counsel to self-quarantine through the end of April 2020.
Well… yeah. That seems pretty serious. As a backdrop, the governor of Louisiana issued a stay-at-home order through at least the end of April — and since the filing of this motion, that order has been extended to May 15 — further complicating discovery. Our stricken counsel moved, after securing the consent of all parties, to put off the trial scheduled for July to some mutually agreed better time.
This seems entirely reasonable. Therefore, Judge Guidry responds…
The Court is aware of health concerns relating to the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) and expects the parties to follow the guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other public health authorities. However, the Court notes this case has been pending since May 31, 2017 and finds a continuance in this case is not warranted at this time.
Someone really wants this case off their newly inherited calendar, don’t they? Putting aside the lunacy of telling a COVID patient to suck it up and keep taking depositions, the idea that a trial will really be happening in July is comically wishful. This isn’t a Judge Judy episode where trial prep can be slapped together over the weekend either… it’s been on the calendar since 2017 for a reason. Assuming nothing changes between now and trial, this is going to be a hefty ordeal.
It turns out that Judge Guidry’s defiance in the face of the virus only lasted six days. Chief Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown issued a general order instructing her judges to put off trials until at least August, prompting Judge Guidry to issue a curt update:
Considering the COVID-19 General Order 20-6: Amendment to General Order 20-2 to Extend Certain Deadlines, and COVID-19 General Order 20-2: March 16, 2020, Trials, In- Person Hearings & Conferences Cont. to May 1, 20202; IT IS ORDERED that the jury trial scheduled for July 13, 2020 is CONTINUED to commence the week beginning Monday, August 3, 2020 at 9:30 a.m.
At least the common sense result prevailed. Getting an extra couple of weeks may not sound like much, but enterprising counsel can accomplish a lot with an extra two weeks.
Still, no matter how irritating a case may be to preside over, you can’t punish them for getting sick.
Joe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.
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