We issue this “Extra” Alert with breaking news of importance to our readers concerning the Coronavirus pandemic, that we feel should not await our normal publication schedule.
FINRA POSTPONES ARBITRATION HEARINGS UNTIL MAY 1. As we predicted in our March 2 blog post, FINRA has administratively postponed arbitration and mediation hearings through May 1. The March 16 notice, Postponement of In-Person Arbitration & Mediation Hearings, posted on FINRA’s Website and sent to the Office of Dispute Resolution’s constituents says: “In response to the evolving coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), FINRA has decided to administratively postpone all in-person arbitration and mediation proceedings scheduled through May 1, 2020. If you have an in-person hearing or mediation session that is postponed as a result of this decision, you will be contacted by FINRA staff to reschedule or discuss remote scheduling options. Please note that this decision does not affect other case deadlines. All case deadlines will continue to apply and must be timely met unless the parties jointly agree otherwise.” Our blog post said: “Absent an effective vaccination or treatment, we expect that as time goes by there will be growing resistance from arbitration participants to physically assemble for a hearing. ADR providers may also have similar qualms. To us this portends increasing interest in and usage of online ADR. It’s not a huge leap to envision FINRA reacting to growing contagion by temporarily halting cases and requiring hearings to be conducted by teleconference or video.”
SCOTUS POSTPONES MARCH ORAL HEARINGS. The Supreme Court on March 16 issued a Press Release postponing oral hearings through April 1. Says the Press Release: “In keeping with public health precautions recommended in response to COVID-19, the Supreme Court is postponing the oral arguments currently scheduled for the March session (March 23-25 and March 30-April 1). The Court will examine the options for rescheduling those cases in due course in light of the developing circumstances.” The Justices will conduct their regularly scheduled conference on March 20, but some may participate remotely. The Release observes that oral arguments have not been postponed since the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. The Release adds that this move is not unprecedented: “The Court also shortened its argument calendars in August 1793 and August 1798 in response to yellow fever outbreaks.”
(ed: *These are unprecedented times, indeed. **FINRA in September 2017 posted on its Website, Hurricane Maria Update: Accommodations for Hearings Scheduled in Puerto Rico, temporarily postponing hearings in the Commonwealth. NASD Dispute Resolution took a similar approach to New York-area cases in the wake of 9-11. In that instance, the agency temporarily postponed and stayed hearings in that region.)