A Las Vegas hearing in the government’s appeal in the Cliven Bundy criminal case has been canceled amid fears about the coronavirus.
The clerk of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a one-page order Tuesday vacating oral arguments in the case on March 23 without explanation. The court did not reschedule the hearing.
On Monday, the San Francisco-based appeals court posted an announcement on its website indicating it was canceling some hearings this week “in light of the concerns about community spread of the COVID-19 virus throughout the circuit.”
The announcement said more hearings could be canceled next week and in the future. The 9th Circuit hears appeals in nine western states, including California and Nevada.
“At this time, all scheduled oral argument hearings in all locations will go forward unless an order is issued to the contrary in a specific case,” the court said.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Marshals Service Wednesday confirmed the Bundy hearing was called off, but could not cite a reason.
One Las Vegas defense lawyer in the case, Dan Hill, said he thought the cancellation was related to the fast-spreading deadly virus.
“I think it has been canceled out of concerns about the coronavirus,” Hill said. “I anticipate there will be a lot of people at the hearing, and that may have been a factor.”
Other cases scheduled to be heard in Las Vegas that week still were listed on the 9th Circuit’s website as of late Wednesday.
Federal prosecutors filed their opening brief in the appeal more than a year ago asking the court to resurrect the criminal case against Bundy and several co-defendants.
U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro tossed out the criminal charges in the middle of the trial because of what she called “flagrant” misconduct by prosecutors.
Bundy, 73, has been fighting the government for more than 25 years over grazing rights for his cattle. He and two of his sons, Ammon and Ryan Bundy, along with Montana militia leader Ryan Payne, were considered the leaders of what the government alleged was a massive conspiracy to assault law enforcement officers a few miles from the Bundy ranch near Bunkerville in April 2014.
Navarro also dismissed the cases against Bundy’s sons and Payne in January 2018. She later tossed out the charges against two other Bundy sons, David and Melvin Bundy, who were to be tried separately from their father.