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Updates from the Several States

A vaccine is on the way, but jury trials are not—at least not in many places. Yesterday Indiana suspended all jury trials in the state until March. North Carolina froze nearly all in-person court proceedings through at least January 14, 2021. The Western District of New York halted all jury trials at least through February 24. (The Western District includes Buffalo and Rochester.) The Western District’s order, like many closure orders, also applies to grand jury proceedings. But not all grand juries are shut down. Last week a grand jury in the Southern District of California returned an indictment of a physician for crimes arising from his business venture selling COVID-19 “treatment kits,” which he advertised to one potential customer as a “miracle cure.” The defendant is a licensed physician and the former operator of Skinny Beach Med Spas in and around San Diego. According to the DOJ press release, the defendant agreed with a Chinese supplier to smuggle...

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A Mistrial, without a Positive Case

In Charlotte, North Carolina, the Superior Court for Mecklenburg County attempted to hold its first pandemic jury trial, starting November 16. Things did not go well. First, during the evidence phase, a jury was excused after reporting a possible exposure. He later tested negative. Then, jury deliberations were suspended for a week when a juror began experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms. That juror too tested negative. Then, on Monday, a jury who traveled during Thanksgiving notified the court of being exposed to relatives who were not showing COVID-19 symptoms. The courthouse was trying to arrange testing for that juror. The result? A mistrial, without a positive test. Meanwhile, the county reports that more than 700 felony cases are awaiting trial, including 100 homicide cases and another 150 involving rapes, assaults and other violent offenses. According to the Charlotte Observer, “the statewide surge in new COVID-19 cases is already surpassing some of the...

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What Reopening? Dockets on Hold in Multiple US Jurisdictions

The US District Court for the District of Massachusetts has sent out notices seeking information to reschedule federal civil jury trials for 2021. The rest of 2020 is off the table. Meanwhile, many courts that did restart their jury trial dockets are being forced to rethink that. In Tennessee, Memphis courts have put reopening plans on hold—including canceling the scheduled trial for the accused killer of NBA star Lorenzen Wright, which was scheduled to begin yesterday. Cincinnati courts canceled their jury trials, effective yesterday. In Idaho, only one county is open for jury trials. In Michigan, Livingston County postponed jury trials until further notice, as did all neighboring counties. On the other side of the coin, however, a jury trial is underway in a homicide case in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania (Allentown and Easton). And rural counties in North Carolina are launching their first trials this week.

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 McDermott’s litigation team monitors US courts as they reopen amid the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis.

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