October 21, 2021

News

News Network

Courts Suspending Jury Trials as COVID-19 Cases Surge

19 min read
<div>About two dozen U.S. district courts have posted orders that suspend jury trials or grand jury proceedings, and scale back other courthouse activities in response to a sharp nationwide rise in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases. The surge in new court orders in recent weeks marks a significant pause in efforts by federal courts to resume full operations.</div>

About two dozen U.S. district courts have posted orders that suspend jury trials or grand jury proceedings, and scale back other courthouse activities in response to a sharp nationwide rise in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases. The surge in new court orders in recent weeks marks a significant pause in efforts by federal courts to resume full operations.

Although courts have safely conducted jury trials during the pandemic, and many of the nation’s 94 districts are still scheduling jury trials, several judges said that spikes in new diagnoses and hospitalizations have made the convening of juries an unacceptable risk. Some said they expect conditions to worsen as winter hits.

“In order to resume jury trials, we will need to see the key health markers, as measured by the Colorado Department of Health, go down to acceptable levels,” said Chief Judge Philip A. Brimmer, of the District of Colorado. “I am concerned that the markers will stay high for several months, despite recent efforts by the governor and metro-area mayors to put in place new restrictions.”

The orders issued in recent weeks affect courts in most regions of the country, but they are especially pronounced in cold-weather areas in the North, Midwest, and Plains states. Orders suspending jury trials or grand jury sessions have been posted since mid-October on 25 district court websites, while an additional dozen courts have continued suspensions that were already in effect.

On Nov. 5, the District of Colorado suspended all jury and in-person bench trials, as well as all grand jury sessions, until at least Jan. 8. An order signed by Brimmer cited “positivity rates, the number of hospitalizations, and cumulative incidences per 100,000 people.”

In addition to health data, some orders cited growing difficulties in getting jurors to hear cases. “Citizens’ increasing inability and reluctance to serve on juries is understandable,” said a Nov. 6 order signed by Chief Judge D.P. Marshall, Jr., of the Eastern District of Arkansas, “but it creates the possibility that our juries will not reflect a fair cross section of the Eastern District.”

In late April, barely a month after many courts had closed their buildings to public visitors due to rising COVID-19 cases, the Judiciary issued a “gating” strategy to guide courts in a gradual reopening. The document encouraged courts to tie their decisions to a range of local COVID-19 data, which at the time were stabilizing and even improving in many states.

From the start, however, the gating mechanism was designed to move in two directions, also guiding courts on how to scale back or close in-person functions if local health data worsened. As new records in daily cases affect most parts of the country at the same time, court leaders have anticipated and responded to the changing landscape.

“We were going through the positive stages of recovery, beginning jury trials in August and so forth, but there was another conversation going on all the time,” said Chief Judge James K. Bredar, of the District of Maryland. “We prepared a rollback template before we needed it and thought through the kinds of issues that we might face and need to deal with.”

Bredar ordered his court to suspend all in-person court proceedings from Nov. 16 through the end of the month. While the current order only covers two weeks, the court is evaluating whether to suspend in-person proceedings for a longer period.

“Our epidemiologist has taught me that in the context of COVID-19, it’s not just the raw numbers that matter. It’s the slopes of the curves,” Bredar said. “Unfortunately, our numbers are up, and the slope of the curve is not good, whether it’s hospitalizations, test positivity, even deaths.”

The districts posting recent orders are: Alaska; Arizona; Eastern District of Arkansas; Colorado; Northern, Central and Southern Districts of Illinois; Northern and Southern Districts of Indiana; Kansas; Eastern and Western Districts of Kentucky; Maine; Maryland; Minnesota; Western District of Missouri; Nebraska; Nevada; Northern District of Oklahoma; Western District of Pennsylvania; Western District of Texas; Utah; Eastern District of Virginia; Eastern District of Washington; and Western District of Wisconsin.

In addition, the Northern District of New York has postponed jury trials until Jan. 19 without issuing a court order, after discussions among judges, the Federal Public Defender, and the U.S. attorney’s office. And the District of Idaho has lowered its courtroom capacity from 50 to 10.

“We have seen a large uptick in cases after each major event, and with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s coming, it was thought more prudent to suspend jury trials,” said John M. Domurad, clerk of court of the Northern District of New York. “We are actively encouraging doing other proceedings remotely.”

A few courts have moved in the opposite direction, recently resuming jury trials based on local conditions. And many districts have maintained jury trials throughout the COVID-19 emergency.

“Our court has held nine jury trials and we have had no issues, and no one has gotten sick,” said Chief Judge L. Scott Coogler, of the Northern District of Alabama. “But like courts everywhere, we are seeing the increase in COVID-19 cases, and we are being more cautious.”

News Network

  • Virginia Tax Return Preparer Sentenced to Just Over 12 Months for Evading Her Own Taxes
    In Crime News
    A Richmond, Virginia, tax return preparer was sentenced yesterday to one year and a day in prison for evading her own taxes.
    [Read More…]
  • Court Intervention Teams Target Substance Abuse
    In U.S Courts
    Two specialized programs in the Northern District of California are harnessing local resources to help high-risk individuals rebuild their lives.
    [Read More…]
  • Federal Court Permanently Shuts Down Michigan Tax Preparers
    In Crime News
    A federal court in the Western District of Michigan has permanently enjoined a married couple from preparing returns for others and from owning, operating, or franchising any tax return preparation business in the future.
    [Read More…]
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Changes in Global Hawk’s Acquisition Strategy Are Needed to Reduce Program Risks
    In U.S GAO News
    Global Hawk offers significant military capabilities to capture and quickly transmit high-quality images of targets and terrain, day or night, and in adverse weather--without risk to an onboard pilot. Global Hawk first flew in the late 1990s as a demonstrator and supported recent combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2001, the Air Force began an acquisition program to develop and produce improved Global Hawks. In 2002, the Department of Defense (DOD) restructured and accelerated the program to include a new, larger and more capable air vehicle. GAO was asked to review the program and discuss (1) the restructuring's effect on the Air Force's ability to deliver new capabilities to the warfighter and (2) whether its current business case and management approach is knowledge-based and can help forestall future risks.The restructuring of the Global Hawk program impacts the acquisition program in multiple ways. More and accelerated funding: Funding, which previously spanned 20 years, now is compressed in about half the time. The restructured plan requires $6.3 billion through fiscal year 2012; the original plan would have needed $3.4 billion by that time. The budget request is now three times higher for some years. Immature technologies: Several critical technologies needed to provide the advanced capabilities are immature and will not be tested on the new air vehicle until late in the program, after which most of the air vehicles will already have been bought. New requirements, new costs: DOD's desire to add additional Global Hawk capabilities tripled development costs. The program acquisition unit cost increased 44 percent since program start, yet fewer vehicles are to be produced than originally planned. Challenges, trade-offs, and delays: The addition of new capabilities has led to space, weight, and power constraints for the advanced Global Hawk model. These limitations may result in deferring some capabilities. Some key events and activities--many related to testing issues--have been delayed. Global Hawk's highly concurrent development and production strategy is risky and runs counter in important ways to a knowledge-based approach and to DOD's acquisition guidance. The restructuring caused gaps in product knowledge, increasing the likelihood of unsuccessful cost, schedule, quality, and performance outcomes. Because the restructured program is dramatically different from the initial plan for the basic model, the business case now seems out of sync with the realities of the acquisition program.
    [Read More…]
  • Interagency Council on Homelessness: Governance Responsibilities Need Further Clarification
    In U.S GAO News
    The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) consists of representatives from 19 federal agencies—including a Chair and Vice-Chair—on its governing Council and a full-time staff led by an Executive Director. The Executive Director has led most day-to-day operations, including hiring and managing staff, preparing budget requests, working with private-sector groups, drafting strategic plans, developing performance goals, and drafting agendas for the Council's quarterly meetings. Council members have quarterly meetings to discuss and consider homelessness issues and review the efforts of the Executive Director and USICH staff. Actions taken at Council meetings held from December 2017 through March 2020 included electing the Chair and Vice-Chair, appointing the Executive Director, and approving the USICH strategic plan and activities of interagency working groups. USICH staff also informed the Council of their performance results during the quarterly meetings. Some roles and responsibilities for the governance of USICH, such as the types of matters that require Council approval, are not fully defined or documented. Recent Council Chairs told GAO they generally did not have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities and generally based them on their predecessors' activities. For example, the 2019 Chair stated he saw his responsibilities as preparing and chairing quarterly Council meetings and acting as the Council's external spokesperson, but there were no written procedures detailing these responsibilities. The 2019 Chair also stated that he had no involvement in overseeing the USICH budget or operations, staff, and interagency working groups. Standards of Internal Control for the Federal Government state that for an entity's objectives to be achieved the responsibilities and delegations of authority should be clearly established. At its quarterly meeting held in March 2020, the Council approved a charter that addresses voting mechanics, performance evaluations for the Executive Director, and the authority of the Executive Director to oversee personnel. But the charter does not fully clarify the Council's responsibilities in other areas, such as the responsibilities of the Council Chair, types of matters that would require approval by Council vote, and actions that are within the Executive Director's delegated authority. Additional clarity and documentation in these areas may assist the Council in securing a fuller understanding of its oversight role and responsibilities. The mission of USICH is to coordinate the federal response to homelessness and create partnerships with the private sector and state and local governments to reduce and end homelessness. The joint explanatory statement related to the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2019 includes a provision for GAO to review the management and governance structure of USICH, including the Council's ability to oversee the Executive Director and USICH operations. This report (1) describes the structure and practices for USICH operations and (2) evaluates the extent to which roles and responsibilities for the governance of USICH have been defined and documented. GAO focused primarily on the 2017–2020 time frame and analyzed agency documentation (such as Council meeting transcripts, and USICH's strategic plan and performance reports) and interviewed Council members, current and former Executive Directors, and staff from member agencies. GAO is recommending that the Council further clarify and document its roles and responsibilities for matters requiring the Council's approval, the role of the Council Chair, and actions within the Executive Director's delegated authority. The Council concurred with the recommendation. For more information, contact Alicia Puente Cackley, (202) 512-8678, cackleya@gao.gov.
    [Read More…]
  • Department Press Briefing – April 30, 2021
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Jalina Porter, Principal [Read More…]
  • Revocation of the Authorization of Belarus General License 2G Due to Human Rights Violations and Abuses
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Defendant Pleads Guilty In Multi-Million Dollar Prize Notification Scam Affecting Elderly Victims
    In Crime News
    A Las Vegas area resident charged with perpetrating a prize-notification scheme that bilked victims out of more than $10 million pleaded guilty today, the Department of Justice announced.
    [Read More…]
  • Secretary Blinken’s Meeting with Israeli Alternate Prime Minister and Defense Minister Gantz
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Office of the [Read More…]
  • Combating Terrorism: U.S. Efforts to Address the Terrorist Threat in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas Require a Comprehensive Plan and Continued Oversight
    In U.S GAO News
    Since 2002, destroying the terrorist threat and closing safe havens have been key national security goals. The United States has provided Pakistan, a key ally in the war on terror, more than $10 billion in funds and assistance. Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas' (FATA) rugged terrain, poor economic conditions, low literacy, underdeveloped infrastructure, and unique legal structure, all add to the complexity of efforts to address the terrorist threat in the FATA. This testimony discusses the (1) progress of U.S. national security goals in the FATA, (2) status of U.S. efforts to develop a comprehensive plan, and (3) oversight of U.S. Coalition Support Funds (CSF) provided to Pakistan. The testimony is based on recent reports on the status of a comprehensive plan (GAO-08-622) and preliminary observations on the use and oversight of U.S. CSF (GAO-08-735R).The United States has not met its national security goals to destroy terrorist threats and close the safe haven in Pakistan's FATA. According to U.S. officials and intelligence documents, since 2002, al Qaeda and the Taliban have used Pakistan's FATA and the border region to attack Pakistani, Afghan, as well as U.S. and coalition troops; plan and train for attacks against U.S. interests; destabilize Pakistan; and spread radical Islamist ideologies that threaten U.S. interests. GAO found broad agreement that al Qaeda had established a safe haven in the FATA. A 2008 DNI assessment states that al Qaeda is now using the FATA to put into place the last elements necessary to launch another attack against America. The United States has relied principally on the Pakistani military to address its national security goals in the FATA. Of the approximately $5.8 billion directed at efforts in the FATA border region from 2002 through 2007, about 96 percent ($5.56 billion) was U.S. CSF, used to reimburse the Pakistani military. U.S. and Pakistani government officials recognize that relying primarily on the Pakistani military has not succeeded in neutralizing al Qaeda and preventing the establishment of a safe haven in the FATA. The National Strategy for Combating Terrorism (2003), independent 9/11 Commission (2004), and congressional legislation (2004 and 2007) called for a comprehensive plan that included all elements of national power--diplomatic, military, intelligence, development assistance, economic, and law enforcement support to address the threat in the FATA. Since 2002, the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan has not had a Washington-supported, comprehensive plan to combat terrorists and close the terrorist safe haven. In 2006, the United States and Pakistan began an effort to focus on other elements of national power beyond military. However, as of last month there was not a formally approved comprehensive plan and support from the recently elected Pakistani government was uncertain. Continued oversight is required to ensure the development and effective implementation of a comprehensive plan and the proper use of the billions of U.S. dollars devoted to assisting Pakistan in its efforts to combat terrorism in the FATA. Preliminary results from GAO's ongoing work on the oversight of U.S. CSF indicate that Defense may have recently increased its oversight of CSF. In 2007, Defense officials at the U.S. embassy in Pakistan--the Office of the Defense Representative to Pakistan (ODRP)--began playing a larger role in overseeing CSF reimbursement claims. Furthermore, Defense recently deferred or disallowed a larger amount of Pakistani claims. For the months September 2004 - February 2007, Defense disallowed or deferred an average of just over 2 percent of the Pakistani government's CSF claims. For the most recent claims (March - June 2007) processed in February 2008, Defense disallowed or deferred over 20 percent. The extent of ODRP's oversight in the future is unclear, given that its role has not been formalized.
    [Read More…]
  • ‘All too frequent tragedies demand action to improve judicial security,’ Judge tells Judicial Conference
    In U.S Courts
    “Four federal judges and three family members have been killed since 1979. These horrific tragedies must stop,” Judge David W. McKeague told the Judicial Conference of the United States today.
    [Read More…]
  • Department of Justice Publishes Proposed Regulations Articulating the Registration Requirements for Sex Offenders under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice has published proposed regulations that provide a clear and comprehensive statement of sex offenders’ registration requirements under the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).  SORNA requires convicted sex offenders to register in the states in which they live, work, or attend school, and it directs the Attorney General to issue regulations and guidelines to implement SORNA. 
    [Read More…]
  • On the Passing of Former Palau President Kuniwo Nakamura
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Myanmar Independence Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Michael R. Pompeo, [Read More…]
  • Four Additional Members of Los Angeles-Based Fraud Ring Indicted for Exploiting COVID-Relief Programs
    In Crime News
    A federal grand jury in Los Angeles returned a superseding indictment, which was unsealed Thursday, charging four additional individuals for their alleged participation in a scheme to submit over 150 fraudulent loan applications seeking over $21.9 million in COVID-19 relief funds guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
    [Read More…]
  • Burundi Travel Advisory
    In Travel
    Do not travel to Burundi [Read More…]
  • On the Anniversary of the Day of Portugal, Camões, and Portuguese Communities
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Secretary Antony J. Blinken Virtual Discussion with Students on Ice
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Sanctioning Cuban Police in Response to Violent Repression of Peaceful Protests
    In Crime Control and Security News
    Antony J. Blinken, [Read More…]
  • Los Angeles Man Arrested for $27 Million PPP Fraud Scheme
    In Crime News
    A California man was arrested today in Los Angeles on criminal charges related to his alleged bank fraud, false statements in a loan application and money laundering arising from the submission of fraudulent applications for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds.
    [Read More…]
Network News © 2005 Area.Control.Network™ All rights reserved.