‘An alarming rise in COVID-19’: California’s Central District halts jury trials for 3 weeks
The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on Monday suspended jury trials until Jan. 24, citing “an alarming increase in COVID-19 cases,” including inside its own courthouses.
According to the orderwhich warns that the suspension “may be extended if necessary”.
The announcement follows a similar decision in the District of New Jersey, which on Dec. 29 suspended all in-person proceedings until Jan. 31. The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal and Seventh Circuits also reverted to remote advocacy only, and the District of Maryland does not convene juries until at least January 24.
the North district of California recently announced any new restrictions on in-person procedures, nor the eastern district. the South district on Dec. 23, extended its authorization for video conferencing and conference calls, but said in-person proceedings can still take place at a judge’s discretion.
Like Maryland, the Central District is not halting all in-person procedures, but Monday’s order requires everyone to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since October 15, the Central District has also required all judges and staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Central District resumed holding jury trials last June after a district-wide ban prompted by COVID-19 lasted more than a year and led to public disagreement between judges on its necessity. U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney in Santa Ana dismissed four criminal cases because of the indefinite ban on trials, which he says is unconstitutional. The dismissals were made with prejudice rather than without, meaning prosecutors can’t file a case, but the U.S. Attorney’s Office is appealing each dismissal to the Ninth Circuit.
Appeal training in April reversed Carney’s first dismissal, but attorneys for the defendant, a doctor accused of illegally supplying his patients with prescription drugs, filed a motion for a rehearing and a motion for a bench hearing on May 27. They have a new voice on their side. San Diego Federal Defenders filed an amicus brief on June 7, stating that the notice reshapes the law on expedited trials and “will not only affect the thousands of ongoing cases during the pandemic, but also any future cases where the exclusion for justice purposes arises.”
Federal prosecutors filed their objection on July 12. But nearly six months later, the court has still not ruled.
Carney told Law.com in an email Monday night that he was not part of the Central District Executive Committee that voted to stay the trials this month, and he declined to comment on the decision “because it affects many of my ongoing cases as well as the still pending petition for rehearing and en banc review [that case].”
The Central District includes courthouses in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside counties.