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Jury trials still on hold in Virginia

By MELINDA WILLIAMS

melinda@southwesttimes.com

Jury trials remain on hold in Virginia, at least until July 19, now that Virginia Supreme Court has extended its judicial emergency for a sixth time.

The judicial emergency, related to the COVID-19 pandemic, was first declared March 16 at the request of Gov. Ralph Northam. It followed Northam’s state declaration of an emergency March 12.

Since that time, the judicial emergency has undergone six extensions and several amendments designed to clarify judicial processes under the emergency.

Starting with the fifth extension, June 1, non-emergency hearings were able to resume under restrictions designed to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus. However, criminal and civil jury trials remain on hold, even under the sixth extension declared June 22.

The judicial emergency is now in effect through July 19, retaining all the same measures staff and the public must abide by when using court services, including wearing face masks when entering the courthouse.

According to the latest order issued by the court, efforts are afoot to establish a Jury Task Force to develop plans for resuming jury trials.

In addition, chief justices of each circuit are required to develop a plan for how and when their own circuit can move forward with jury trials and submit by Aug. 17. Courts are being advised to expect “a higher number of jurors requesting to be excused based on COVID-19 symptoms, exposure and related health concerns.”

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