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Jury trials suspended in Maryland as COVID-19 cases spike

In Maryland, the state judiciary has postponed jury trials and reduced other court operations until at least Feb. 8. They have given the rise of COVID-19 cases as the reason for this.

Ongoing jury trials will be permitted to conclude, but those scheduled between Dec. 29 and Feb. 8 will be rescheduled, according to an order from Joseph M. Getty, Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals of Maryland.

“The emergence of the highly contagious Delta variant and now the substantially more contagious Omicron variant and the attendant risk posed to those who are vaccinated and those who have not completed the vaccination process require the return to a more restrictive Phase of emergency operations,” he wrote.

Maryland health officials reported Monday a spike in the state’s testing positivity rate to more than 16%, and in COVID-19 hospitalizations, to more than 1,700. More people are hospitalized with COVID-19 than at any point this year since January, before vaccinations became widespread.

With the judiciary back in Phase III of operations, district and circuit courts in the state will hear some types of cases in-person, but remote proceedings will be conducted “to the greatest extent possible” and jury trials will have to wait, according to Getty’s order. Marylanders currently serving as jurors are encouraged to contact their local circuit court.

Maryland’s Hicks rule, which requires that criminal trials in circuit court begin within 180 days of a defendant’s first appearance in court, will essentially be waived until trials are able to resume, according to Getty’s order.

The clerks’ offices in the District Court of Maryland and circuit courts throughout the state will remain open to the public, and the Court of Appeals and Court of Special Appeals will remain fully operational, although the chief judge will decide whether to hold proceedings remotely or in-person.

Certain staffers will be permitted “more flexible alternative work arrangements,” subject to direction from the Human Resources Department of the Administrative Office of the Courts, according to Getty’s order.

“As throughout the pandemic, the health and safety of the public, judges, and judiciary staff remains our top priority,” Getty said in a statement. “In an abundance of caution and through consultation with state leadership, I have made the necessary decision to revert back to Phase III operations.”

ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH

MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

PHOTO CREDITS: PEWTRUSTS.ORG

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Paul, 37, is from Scotland in the UK, but currently lives and works in Bangkok. Paul has worked in different industries such as telemarketing, retail, hospitality, farming, insurance, and teaching, where he works now. He teaches at an all-girls High School in Bangkok. “It’s a lot of work, but I love my job.” Paul has an active interest in politics. His reason for writing for FBA is to offer people the facts and allow them to make up their own minds. Whilst he believes opinion columns have their place, it is also important that people can have accurate news with no bias.

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