September 27, 2021

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Coronavirus (COVID-19): Response and Recovery

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<div>Federal courts are coordinating with state and local health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to obtain information about the coronavirus (COVID-19) to aid their response, recovery, and reopening efforts. Courts are regularly releasing orders to address operating status, public and employee safety, and other court business.</div>

Federal courts are coordinating with state and local health officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to obtain information about the coronavirus (COVID-19) to aid their response, recovery, and reopening efforts. Courts are regularly releasing orders to address operating status, public and employee safety, and other court business.

New information about the Judiciary’s response and recovery will be continually added to this page. 

Page last updated July 16, 2020.

Policy and Procedures

Federal courts are taking necessary steps to reopen while safeguarding the health and safety of employees, litigants, and the public as they fulfill their constitutional role of hearing cases and administering justice fairly and impartially.

Virtual Access to Court Proceedings

Federal courts have adopted video and audio technologies to continue court proceedings and allow for public and media access.

Operational Changes

The Judiciary is modifying many of its functions to better address issues related to jury trials, probation and pretrial services, law clerk hiring, and other areas affected by the pandemic.

Community Engagement

From donating protective equipment to local hospitals to holding virtual learning sessions for students, federal courts are finding new and innovative ways to serve their communities.

News Network

  • Veterans Community Care Program: VA Took Action on Veterans’ Access to Care, but COVID-19 Highlighted Continued Scheduling Challenges
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) took action regarding veterans' access to care through the Veterans Community Care Program (VCCP). For example, VA recommended that VA medical facility staff schedule telehealth appointments whenever possible in order to reduce veterans' risk of exposure to COVID-19. VA also directed facility staff to prioritize appointment scheduling and monitor referrals. Nevertheless, for referrals created between January 2020 and January 2021, GAO's analysis below shows that about 172,000 referrals (3 percent) remain unscheduled as of March 24, 2021. Status of Veterans Community Care Program Referrals Created Between January 2020 and January 2021, as of March 24, 2021 Note: A referral is complete after the veteran attends the appointment and VA staff receive medical documentation from the provider. A canceled referral is returned to the ordering VA provider. A discontinued referral is no longer wanted or needed. Referral data from one VA facility were not reported after October 2020.aThe number of unscheduled referrals created in January 2020 through May 2020 is too small to display in this figure. Staff at six selected VA medical facilities told GAO they faced both new and previously identified challenges scheduling VCCP appointments during COVID-19. For example, staff from all six facilities stated that community care wait times increased during the pandemic. However, as VA lacks an overall wait-time measure for the VCCP, the effect of COVID-19 on appointment timeliness is unknown. GAO previously identified, and made recommendations to address, VA's lack of wait-time measures under its previous community care programs in 2013 and 2018. Given that VA had not implemented these recommendations over the prior 7 years, in 2020 GAO recommended congressional action to require VA to establish a VCCP wait-time measure. Staff from all six facilities said they also faced challenges with understaffed community care offices and increased referral volume as veterans returned to seek care. GAO previously recommended in 2020 that VA direct its medical facilities to assess community care staffing needs. VA has taken some action to address these concerns but has not yet implemented this recommendation. Why GAO Did This Study In June 2019, VA implemented a new community care program—the VCCP—under which eligible veterans can receive care from community providers. GAO has previously reported on challenges VA has faced regarding oversight of its community care programs, including the VCCP. VA's ability to ensure veterans have timely access to care under the VCCP is especially important as VA continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to report on its ongoing monitoring and oversight efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report describes (1) VA's response to the COVID-19 pandemic as it relates to the VCCP and (2) challenges selected VA medical facilities experienced scheduling VCCP appointments. GAO reviewed VA documentation, such as guidance for VCCP appointment scheduling, and reviewed VCCP referral and appointment data. GAO interviewed officials from VA and its two third-party administrators, and community care management and staff from six VA medical facilities, which were selected, in part, based on complexity, rurality, and location.
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  • U.S. Attorney Transition Begins
    In Crime News
    Continuing the practice of new administrations, President Biden and the Department of Justice have begun the transition process for the U.S. Attorneys.
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  • Passing of Niger’s Ambassador to the United States
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  • Nine MS-13 Gang Members Indicted in Racketeering and Violent Crime Conspiracy
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in Nashville, Tennessee, has returned a 60-count indictment charging nine members of La Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) with a racketeering conspiracy spanning more than seven years.
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  • Ambassador Pamela Spratlen Designated as Senior Advisor to Department Health Incident Response Task Force
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Judicial and Legislative Branches to Continue Discussions on Judiciary Case Management Bill
    In U.S Courts
    The Judicial Conference of the United States expressed its opposition to the version of a bill passed by the House this week, saying it “will have devastating budgetary and operational impact on the Judiciary and our ability to serve the public” by imposing radical and costly changes on the Third Branch’s electronic case management system without adequate funding.
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  • Former Mississippi Police Officer Pleads Guilty to Excessive Force Charge
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department announced today that a former officer with the Meridian, Mississippi Police Department pleaded guilty to using excessive force against a man during a vehicle stop and arrest. 
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  • Financial Audit: Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Funds’ 2020 and 2019 Financial Statements
    In U.S GAO News
    GAO found (1) the financial statements of the Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) and of the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation (FSLIC) Resolution Fund (FRF) as of and for the years ended December 31, 2020, and 2019, are presented fairly, in all material respects, in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles; (2) although internal controls could be improved, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) maintained, in all material respects, effective internal control over financial reporting relevant to the DIF and to the FRF as of December 31, 2020; and (3) with respect to the DIF and to the FRF, no reportable instances of noncompliance for 2020 with provisions of applicable laws, regulations, contracts, and grant agreements GAO tested. In commenting on a draft of this report, FDIC stated that it was pleased to receive unmodified opinions on the DIF's and the FRF's financial statements. In regard to the significant deficiency in internal control over contract payment review processes, FDIC stated that it began taking steps to address this issue and will work to enhance control activities and expand monitoring capabilities in this area. Further, FDIC stated that it recognizes the essential role a strong internal control program plays in an agency achieving its mission. FDIC added that its commitment to sound financial management has been and will remain a top priority. Section 17 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act, as amended, requires GAO to audit the financial statements of the DIF and of the FRF annually. In addition, the Government Corporation Control Act requires that FDIC annually prepare and submit audited financial statements to Congress and authorizes GAO to audit the statements. This report responds to these requirements. For more information, contact James R. Dalkin at (202) 512-3133 or dalkinj@gao.gov.
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  • United States Obtains Final Judgment and Permanent Injunction Against Edward Snowden
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  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken at the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence’s (NSCAI) Global Emerging Technology Summit
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  • Domestic Abuse: DOD Needs to Enhance Its Prevention, Response, and Oversight
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In its May 2021 report, GAO found that the Department of Defense (DOD) met a statutory requirement to collect and report data for incidents that it determined met its criteria for domestic abuse. In fiscal years 2015-2019, DOD determined that over 40,000 domestic abuse incidents met its criteria, of which 74 percent were physical abuse. However, DOD has not collected and reported accurate data for all domestic abuse allegations received, including those that did not meet DOD's criteria, as statutorily required. Thus, DOD is unable to assess the scope of alleged abuse and its rate of substantiation. In addition, despite a statutory requirement since 1999, DOD has not collected comprehensive data on the number of allegations of domestic violence—a subcategory of different types of domestic abuse that constitute offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice—and related actions taken by commanders. Improving collection of these data could enhance DOD's visibility over actions taken by commanders to address domestic violence. DOD and the military services have taken steps to implement and oversee domestic abuse prevention and response activities, but gaps exist in key areas, including creating awareness of domestic abuse reporting options and resources, allegation screening, and victim risk assessment. For example, while DOD and the military services have taken steps to promote awareness of reporting options and resources, DOD has not fully addressed challenges in doing so, and may miss opportunities to provide available resources to victims. In addition, the military services perform limited monitoring of installation incident-screening decisions and therefore lack reasonable assurance that all domestic abuse allegations are screened in accordance with DOD policy. DOD and the military services have developed risk assessment tools in accordance with DOD policy, but the Army, the Navy, and the Marine Corps have not ensured their consistent implementation across installations, and may therefore be limited in their ability to identify and convey the need for any critical safety measures for victims of domestic abuse. Finally, GAO found that the military services perform limited oversight of commanders' disposition of domestic violence incidents, referred to as command actions. These command actions can have significant implications, including for victims' eligibility for transitional compensation and Lautenberg Amendment restrictions to firearm possession for alleged abusers. DOD has not assessed the potential risks associated with its current disposition model for domestic violence incidents and the feasibility of potential alternatives that may respond to such risks. Performing such an assessment could provide the department and military services with a better understanding of such risks and their resulting potential impacts. Why GAO Did This Study This testimony summarizes the information contained in GAO's May 2021 report, entitled Domestic Abuse: Actions Needed to Enhance DOD's Prevention, Response, and Oversight (GAO-21-289). Specifically, this testimony discusses the extent to which 1) DOD has met statutory requirements to collect and report complete data on reports of domestic abuse and 2) DOD and the military services have implemented and overseen domestic abuse prevention and response activities, including commanders' disposition of incidents, in accordance with DOD policy.
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  • High-Performance Computing: NNSA Could Improve Program Management Processes for System Acquisitions
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The National Nuclear Security Administration's (NNSA) analysis of alternatives (AOA) process for its $600 million El Capitan HPC acquisition did not fully follow agency policy that states that AOA processes should be consistent with GAO best practices, where possible, and any deviations must be justified and documented. According to GAO best practices, a reliable AOA process should meet four characteristics: it should be comprehensive, well documented, unbiased, and credible. As seen in the table, the AOA process for El Capitan partially met one of these characteristics and minimally met the other three. NNSA did not justify or document the deviations from these best practices, as required by NNSA policy. GAO also found that the AOA process was conducted by the contractor that manages the El Capitan acquisition program, contrary to agency policy and guidance stating that AOAs should be conducted by an independent entity. Without following AOA best practices where possible; justifying and documenting any deviations; and ensuring AOA processes are conducted by an independent entity, as required, NNSA cannot be assured of a reliable assessment of options for meeting critical mission needs. Extent to Which the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Met the Characteristics of a Reliable Analysis of Alternatives (AOA) Process AOA characteristic GAO assessment Example of deviation Comprehensive Partially met Cost estimates are incomplete and did not follow best practices. Well documented Minimally met The alternatives' descriptions are not detailed enough for a robust analysis. Unbiased Minimally met NNSA had a predetermined solution, acquiring an HPC system, before performing the AOA process. Credible Minimally met The selection criteria appear to have been written for the preferred alternative. Source: GAO analysis of NNSA information. | GAO-21-194 GAO found that, in the second year of the El Capitan acquisition program's 5-year acquisition life cycle, NNSA has fully implemented selected key practices related to program monitoring and control. However, NNSA has only partially implemented key practices related to requirements management. Specifically, El Capitan program officials did not update and maintain acquisition program documents to include current requirements. NNSA officials stated that once the program developed its program plan early in the program's life cycle, they did not require the program to update and maintain that program plan. However, NNSA's own program management policy requires programs to update program documents throughout the duration of the program. Without updating and maintaining El Capitan program documents to include current requirements, NNSA officials may be limited in their ability to ensure that all mission requirements are met. Why GAO Did This Study NNSA is responsible for maintaining the nation's nuclear stockpile. To analyze the performance, safety, and reliability of nuclear weapons, it acquires high-performance computing (HPC) systems to conduct simulations. The latest system, El Capitan, is expected to be fully deployed by March 2024. The committee report accompanying the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2019, includes a provision for GAO to review NNSA's management of its Advanced Simulation and Computing program. This report examines, among other things, (1) the extent to which NNSA's AOA process for the El Capitan acquisition met best practices and followed agency policy and guidance and (2) the extent to which NNSA is implementing selected acquisition best practices in carrying out the El Capitan acquisition program. GAO reviewed documents and interviewed NNSA officials and laboratory representatives involved in carrying out the AOA and acquisition processes.
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  • Joint Statement on the Extended “Troika” on Peaceful Settlement in Afghanistan
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • J&F Investimentos S.A. Pleads Guilty and Agrees to Pay Over $256 Million to Resolve Criminal Foreign Bribery Case
    In Crime News
    J&F Investimentos S.A. (J&F), a Brazil-based investment company that owns and controls companies involved in multiple industries, including the meat and agriculture industry, has agreed to pay a criminal monetary penalty of $256,497,026 to resolve the department’s investigation into violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).  The resolution arises out of J&F’s scheme to pay millions of dollars in bribes to government officials in Brazil in exchange for obtaining financing and other benefits for J&F and J&F-owned entities.
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  • Secretary Blinken’s Call with Peru President-Elect Castillo
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  • Hanford Cleanup: DOE’s Efforts to Close Tank Farms Would Benefit from Clearer Legal Authorities and Communication
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Energy (DOE) has retrieved nuclear waste from all the tanks at C-farm—the first of 18 tank farms (i.e., groupings of tanks) at DOE's Hanford site in southeastern Washington State. The waste is a byproduct of decades of nuclear weapons production and research. DOE is obligated under agreements with the state's Department of Ecology (Ecology) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to move waste from older, single-shell tanks to newer, more durable, double-shell tanks and ultimately to dispose of it. Example of a Tank and of Waste in a Tank at Hanford DOE intends to “close” the C-farm by leaving the nearly empty tanks in place and filling them with grout. However, DOE faces challenges, in part because this approach depends on: (1) DOE's determination under its directives that residual tank waste can be managed as a waste type other than high-level waste (HLW) and (2) Ecology's approval. DOE has started the determination process, but as GAO has previously found, DOE is likely to face a lawsuit because of questions about its legal authority. Ecology has raised concerns that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has not independently reviewed DOE's analysis for this determination. By Congress clarifying DOE's authority at Hanford to determine, with NRC involvement, that residual tank waste can be managed as a waste type other than HLW, DOE would be in a better position to move forward. Another challenge DOE faces in closing C-farm is how to address contaminated soil caused by leaks or discharges of waste from the tanks. DOE and Ecology officials do not agree on a process for evaluating contaminated soil at C-farm or on what role NRC should play in this process. They interpret their agreement differently, particularly regarding whether NRC must review DOE's analysis of contaminated soil. If the two parties cannot resolve this issue, Ecology may deny DOE a permit for C-farm closure. By using an independent mediator to help reach agreement with Ecology on how to assess soil contamination, including NRC's role, DOE would be better positioned to avoid future cleanup delays. DOE has not developed a long-term plan for tank-farm closure, in part, because a plan is not required. However, leading practices in program management call for long-term planning. In addition, DOE faces technical challenges that may take years to address as noted by representatives from various entities or tribal governments. For example, an internal DOE document states there is a 95 percent probability DOE will run out of space in its double shell tanks—space needed to continue retrieval operations. Planning for and building new tanks requires years of work. By developing a long-term plan, DOE could better prepare to address technical challenges. The Hanford site in Washington State contains about 54 million gallons of nuclear waste, which is stored in 177 underground storage tanks. In fiscal years 1997 through 2019, DOE spent over $10 billion to maintain Hanford's tanks and retrieve waste from them. DOE expects to spend at least $69 billion more on activities to retrieve tank waste and close tanks, according to a January 2019 DOE report. Senate Report 116-48, accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, included a provision for GAO to review the status of tank closures at Hanford. GAO's report examines the status of DOE's efforts to retrieve tank waste, challenges DOE faces in its effort to close the C-farm, as well as DOE's approach for closing the remaining tank farms. GAO toured the site; reviewed DOE documents, laws, and regulations; and interviewed officials and representatives from local, regional, and national entities and tribal governments. Congress should consider clarifying DOE's authority at Hanford to determine, with NRC involvement, whether residual tank waste can be managed as a waste type other than HLW. GAO is also making three recommendations, including that DOE (1) use an independent mediator to help reach agreement with Ecology on a process for assessing soil contamination, including NRC's role and (2) develop a long-term plan for its tank waste cleanup mission at Hanford. DOE concurred with all three recommendations. For more information, contact David C. Trimble at (202) 512-3841 or trimbled@gao.gov.
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  • Micro, Small, and Medium-Sized Enterprise Development: USAID Needs to Develop a Targeting Process and Improve the Reliability of Its Monitoring
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found For fiscal years 2015 through 2020, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) generally planned to spend at least $265 million annually on micro, small, and medium-sized enterprise (MSME) assistance, according to annual reports to Congress known as Section 653(a) reports. We found that planned spending amounts for MSME assistance in operational plans differed from the spending plans in the Section 653(a) reports, with the total planned spending exceeding the annual Section 653(a) report levels. USAID has not developed a process to support compliance with statutory requirements to target MSME resources to activities that reach the very poor and to small and medium-sized enterprise resources to activities that reach enterprises owned, managed, and controlled by women. We identified three key gaps that impair USAID's ability to develop such a process. First, USAID has not identified the total funding subject to the targeting requirements. Second, although USAID has programs designed to help the very poor, it is unable to determine the amount of funding that reaches this group. Third, although USAID has MSME activities that benefit women, it has not defined enterprises owned, managed, and controlled by women and does not collect data by enterprise size. These gaps leave USAID unable to determine what percentage of its MSME resources is going to the very poor and enterprises owned, managed, and controlled by women. USAID-Funded Small Enterprise Activities in Georgia, Afghanistan, and Ghana USAID collected and reported incomplete and inconsistent data in its process for monitoring MSME assistance. USAID surveys its missions and bureaus annually to collect data on the amounts and results of MSME assistance. However, USAID collected and reported incomplete data on its MSME assistance in fiscal year 2019, the year of the most recent report. It did not send the survey to all relevant missions and bureaus, and fewer than half of those that received the survey responded. Moreover, USAID's fiscal year 2019 reporting on assistance that reached the very poor included activities from only three of 21 missions that responded to its survey. USAID guidance states that its data should clearly and adequately represent the intended result. Without complete and consistent data, USAID cannot ensure that it is reporting accurate information to Congress on its MSME assistance. Why GAO Did This Study Millions of poor families throughout the developing world derive income from MSME activities. For decades, USAID has sought to use MSME assistance as a tool to achieve economic growth and poverty reduction in low-income countries. To improve programs and activities relating to women's entrepreneurship and economic empowerment, Congress passed the Women's Entrepreneurship and Economic Empowerment (WEEE) Act of 2018. Congress included a provision in this statute for GAO to assess USAID's MSME assistance. This report examines (1) USAID's planned MSME assistance for fiscal years 2015–2020; (2) the extent to which USAID targeted its MSME assistance to women and the very poor and developed a targeting process that it uses to comply with statutory requirements; and (3) the extent to which USAID has an appropriate process for monitoring its MSME assistance. GAO analyzed USAID documents and planned spending levels and interviewed USAID officials in Washington, D.C., and at 10 missions in regions in which USAID operates.
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  • 40 Charged in Largest Federal Racketeering Conspiracy in South Carolina History
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury has returned a 147-count superseding indictment against 40 defendants across South Carolina in the largest federal racketeering conspiracy in South Carolina history.
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  • Justice Department Settles Claims Against City of Meriden, Connecticut, Involving Denial of Mosque
    In Crime News
    The Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut today announced an agreement with the City of Meriden, Connecticut to resolve allegations that the city violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) by denying the application of the Omar Islamic Center to establish a mosque in March 2019, and by maintaining a zoning code that treats religious assemblies and institutions on less than equal terms with nonreligious assemblies and institutions in nine zoning districts.
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  • Justice Department Seeks to Shut Down Louisiana Tax Return Preparers
    In Crime News
    The United States has filed a complaint seeking to bar Louisiana tax return preparers from owning or operating a tax return preparation business and preparing tax returns for others, the Justice Department announced today. The civil complaint against Leroi Gorman Jackson and Mario Alexander, both individually and doing business as The Taxman Financial Services LLC, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
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