Supreme Court refuses to review Central District’s COVID jury trial ban

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to review the constitutionality of the Central District of California’s COVID-19 ban on jury trials, denying a motion for certification that argued the appeals court’s ruling constituted a threat to the Speedy Trial Act.

The court has considered the petition only once, at a conference last Thursday that included dozens of other petitions. It was dismissed on Monday in a two-word entry that read “Petition DENIED,” ending a pandemic-era legal saga that highlighted a trial judge’s anger over his colleagues’ support for an indefinite ban on jury trials.

The order means U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney will remain the only registered jurist who thinks he was right to dismiss a criminal case with prejudice in October 2020 due to the trial ban, even with one dissenting at the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. agreeing with the majority that the move was an abuse of his discretion.

The case against Jeffrey Olsen, a doctor accused of illegally supplying prescription drugs to patients, will now return to Carney’s courtroom in Santa Ana. Four other judge referrals are still pending at the Ninth as they were awaiting the outcome of the Olsen case.

According to a Ninth Circuit judge’s agreement with en banc dismissal, one of these cases stands out from the others because it involves a defendant who was incarcerated when Carney dismissed his case, rather than on bail like Olsen did. was. But it’s unclear whether that will matter on appeal. The committee’s original order did not mention the issue of incarceration when Carney’s 3-0 dismissal was overturned and called the judge’s omission of key facts in his order “disturbing”.

The en banc dissent, written by Justice Daniels Collins and with which Justice Danielle Forrest agreed, gave the case some hope at the Supreme Court level, with Collins’ citing her own dissent in South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsomwith which the Supreme Court sided when it overturned the majority.

Collins also cited the Supreme Court’s vacancy of another Ninth Circuit decision regarding restrictions on religious gatherings, Tandon v. Newsom. The Cato Institute also submitted an amicus brief in support of the motion, written by Stuart Banner, director of UCLA’s Supreme Court Clinic.

However, Collins agreed that the case should not have been dismissed with prejudice, and prosecutors wrote in their opposition to a stay pending SCOTUS motion: “Not a single other judge in the country has dismissed a indictment with prejudice due to suspension of trials. .”

The Ninth Circuit granted the stay anyway, but the Supreme Court’s warrant was issued on Monday, so the case will likely be back before Carney this summer.

The judge made it clear in January that he still passionately disagrees with trial bans, urging the civil bar to express outrage at a temporary trial ban that the Central District implemented in January.

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