Congress Must Pass Bill to Move New Orleans Court

Congress must pass emergency legislation when it returns after Labor Day so that the federal court system in New Orleans (search) can move to a new location, a spokesman for the federal judiciary said Thursday.

Federal law does not allow U.S. District courts to hold proceedings outside of their geographic area.

The Speedy Trial Act (search) sets strict deadlines for the handling of criminal cases, but courts in New Orleans are closed indefinitely.

"We don't know where they are going to try to set up shop," said Dick Carelli, spokesman for the federal courts' administrative office. "It may be Baton Rouge; it may be Shreveport, but first of all they need the legislation in order to move."

The federal judiciary has asked Congress for several years for authority to operate outside its normal boundaries in emergencies, but the once-hypothetical problem has now become a reality.