Jury trials pushed back in California as COVID-19 pandemic surges

“No new jury trial will be conducted through September 30, 2020,” California judge says

Jury trials pushed back in California as COVID-19 pandemic surges

Jury trials have been pushed back in California as the COVID-19 pandemic surges through the state.

The Northern California District Court issued a general order on Thursday which said that “the public safety will be best served by limiting the permissible in-court criminal proceedings to ten people.” As a result, Chief Judge Phyllis Hamilton said that “no new jury trial will be conducted through September 30, 2020.”

“Any jury trial currently scheduled to commence before October 1, 2020, will be postponed or vacated,” Hamilton wrote in the order.

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Civil matters through 30 September will be determined on the papers, unless a judge deems a hearing to be necessary. In such cases, the proceeding will take place via telephone or videoconferencing.

“This applies to motion hearings, case management conferences, pre-trial conferences, settlement conferences, alternative dispute resolution proceedings, and bench trials,” the court said.

As an alternative, judges who do not wish to delay proceedings may conduct bench trials through videoconferencing.

For criminal cases, appearances before magistrate judges are to be made remotely via telephone or videoconference. Guilty pleas and sentences will also “be consolidated for a date after the presentence” for those who have filed to enter a plea or an open guilty plea agreement, the court said.

Courthouses and law libraries in this jurisdiction have been closed to the public. Moreover, until further notice, the court has waived the need for pro se parties to obtain permission from a judge prior to using the electronic case filing system.

Courts in Kentucky and Connecticut have halted jury trials as well, the American Bar Association Journal reported.

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