Attorneys are “essential” workers during the COVID-19 pandemic because they support the operations of the judicial system, but they still should work remotely from home if possible and practice social distancing in the interest of public health, according to updated guidance from the Office of Court Administration.
The OCA issued a revised Travel Authorization letter for attorneys on Thursday noting that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has identified “workers supporting the operations of the judicial system” as essential workers.
“As officers of the courts, lawyers, as well as their necessary staff, support the operations of the judicial system and are therefore essential workers,” David Slayton, administrative director of the courts, said in the letter.
Slayton also noted that consistent with Gov. Greg Abbott’s Executive Order GA-14 requiring even essential services to be provided through remote telework unless they cannot be provided remotely, lawyers should lead by example by working in ways that encourage remote telework and social distancing.
“Lawyers and their staff must work from home if possible and provide all services from home unless the services cannot be provided through remote telework,” Slayton said in the letter. “Lawyers may not engage in activities merely for convenience or personal preference when other means, such as telephoning, tele- or video-conferencing, and online meetings or online court proceedings, are available.”
Lawyers providing essential legal services must be permitted to practice law free from stay-at-home orders and other restrictions on travel and business practices when remote telework is not possible, Slayton said.
The letter replaces the OCA travel authorization issued on March 26.
Read the full revised guidance here.