As many are aware, the U.S. federal government has been shut down since December 21, 2018 due to a lapse in funding. Political views aside, the government shutdown could affect the progress of your legal case—although whether your case is affected varies significantly upon what kind of case you have. The following details how the government shutdown may affect the type of legal case you’re involved in.

Immigration Cases: Despite the shutdown, you may still file any petition for immigrant benefits (i.e., naturalization, permanent residence, visas, etc.) and your petition will still be reviewed. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the shutdown does not affect all “fee-funded” activities.

That being said, a delay may arise if you currently have a hearing scheduled in immigration court. Unless your case involves an urgent deportation matter, most immigration courts will be closed during the pendency of the government shutdown. Your hearing will likely be postponed and there will most likely be a backlog of cases needing heard once the shutdown ends. In any event, it is best to stay informed on your particular case to see if it classifies as “urgent” and when your hearing will be rescheduled.

Civil Cases: The government shutdown should have no effect on your State court case. However, federal civil cases may be delayed due to the lack of funding. Civil matters are being stayed by many courts due to federal attorneys having been furloughed and unable to work in many circumstances.

When a federal employee is “furloughed,” they are placed on a temporary leave of absence due to special needs of their employer—the special needs here being the shutdown of the federal government. With U.S. attorneys being furloughed, there is sure to be a delay in pending federal civil cases as many attorneys are simply out of the office until such time as the shutdown ends.

Criminal Cases: Pending federal criminal cases are least likely to be affected by the government shutdown due to constitutional guarantees like the right to a speedy trial. Criminal cases are expected to move forward without significant interruption; however, the fact that criminal cases will not be interrupted only pushes more civil cases to be postponed and delayed.

If you have a pending legal case during this government shutdown, the most important thing is to stay informed on your individual case so that you don’t miss any important deadlines. The government shutdown may affect your individual case differently depending on the issues involved; however, be aware that the shutdown may seriously delay your legal case. If you have questions, contact our Sioux Falls, Sioux City, or Omaha office today.


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