On March 2, 2021, the ACLU of Pennsylvania filed a federal constitutional lawsuit against Allegheny County Judge Anthony Mariani, on behalf of Abolitionist Law Center and with co-counsel from the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown University Law Center. Volunteers with ALC’s Court Watch program have requested access to Judge Mariani’s proceedings, but the judge refuses to make hearings available via online video conferencing, as all other Allegheny County judges have done as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since January, ALC volunteers have requested access to more than 100 hearings, all of which have been denied by Mariani, who has only allowed the public to observe his court’s hearings in person at the county courthouse, despite a directive from both the court administration and the state Supreme Court that judges should provide online access to the public as a COVID-19 mitigation strategy. In its complaint, ALC notes that nine court employees tested positive for COVID-19 between January 10 and February 10 and that all had visited court facilities, including one member of Mariani’s staff.
ALC has asked the federal district court to rule that Judge Mariani must provide online access to the public and that his previous actions violate the First Amendment.