Meanwhile, an interesting story in the US District Court for the Central District of California. The Los Angeles Times reports on the dismissal of an indictment against an Orange County physician in a drug distribution case. The defendant had been indicted in 2017. He wanted his trial. But the chief judge, Philip Gutierrez, refused to lift the prohibition on jury trials. Therefore the trial judge, Cormac Comey, dismissed the case with prejudice. And he wrote with candor:
“Quite frankly, the court is at a loss to understand how the Central District continues to refuse to resume jury trials in the Orange County federal courthouse. Orange County restaurants are open for outdoor dining and reduced-capacity indoor dining…Nail salons, hair salons, body waxing studios, massage therapy studios, tattoo parlors and pet groomers in Orange County are open, even indoors, with protective modifications. Even movie theaters, aquariums, yoga studios and gyms in Orange County are open indoors with reduced capacity. Yet the federal courthouse in Orange County somehow remains closed for jury trials. The Central District’s refusal to resume jury trials in Orange County is indefensible.”
Public criticisms by a federal judge of a chief judge’s administration are rare.