NEW ORLEANS, La. — The Louisiana Supreme Court has announced that it will pause all jury trials until the end of March.
According to a release, the court issued an order on Thursday that extends the existing moratorium on jury trials through March 31.
However, civil and criminal jury trials that are in progress may continue, in the discretion of the local court, and grand jury proceedings are explicitly not suspended by the order.
The latest order keeps several provisions of the original moratorium that was announced back in January.
The court states that it reached this decision after considering the ongoing public health emergency created by increasing numbers and the spread of COVID-19, but also considering the ongoing distribution of the vaccine across the state.
The court adds that starting on April 1, local courts will be responsible for determining whether jury trials will commence, and safety protocols, including strict social distancing and mask mandates, must be enforced to ensure the safety of all participants.
The order states that:
Jury Trials: No civil or criminal jury trial shall commence in any Louisiana state court before April 1, 2021. Civil and criminal jury trials that are in progress as of the date of this Order may continue to conclusion, in the discretion of the local court.
Grand jury proceedings may continue and are not suspended by this Order. New grand juries may be empaneled as necessary.
Speedy Trial Computations: Given the public health concerns and the necessity of taking action to slow the spread of the disease, the continuances occasioned by Section 1 of this Order serve the ends of justice and outweigh the best interest of the public and the defendant in a speedy trial. Therefore, the time periods of such continuance shall be excluded from speedy trial computations pursuant to law, including but not limited to those set forth in the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure and the Louisiana Children’s Code, and presumptively constitute just cause.
In-Person and Remote Proceedings: The provisions set forth in this Court’s January 11, 2021 Order regarding in-person and remote proceedings remain in full force and effect.
Expiration of Order: Commencing on April 1, 2021, local courts will be responsible for evaluating and determining whether jury trials may be conducted safely within their jurisdictions, subject to any restrictions that might be in place at that time. Safety protocols, including strict social distancing and mask mandates, must be enforced to ensure the safety of all participants. In-custody criminal trials should take priority over all other matters when the moratorium is lifted, and potential jurors citing pandemic-related health concerns should be excused.
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