Colorado Supreme Court Justice Nathan B. Coats suspended all jury trials in April due to the coronavirus pandemic. The courts intended the move to help reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Although wise at the time, it comes with a cost.
The constitution protects the right to a jury trial in criminal cases and the order essentially put both criminal and civil matters that would move forward with a jury on hold. Because of the importance of jury trials, the courts knew the hold would only be temporary. The court is looking to resume these cases, but with some changes.
As of July 30, jury trials have started again in Colorado. However, because of the regulations within the administrative order, there are two fundamental ways cases will be impacted moving forward.
#1: Things will not run at full speed.
The court system is cutting back on how many cases it will allow to move forward within the courts at once. The change reduces the number of people in the courts, leading to lower risk of exposure, but will also likely mean a longer wait time before each case can move forward.
The courts set up the change to help better ensure it operates within the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) Safer at Home Guidance recommendations that the building does not exceed 50% of fire code occupancy capacity or 50 people, whichever is less.
The order also requires all within the courts wear face masks while in indoor spaces unless subject to an exemption.
#2: Nothing is certain.
Within the order, the Hon. Bruce Langer states the judges will review procedures to determine whether the courts can safely increase the number and complexity of trials or whether they will need to further postpone cases based on health concerns.
These changes make it even more important that those who are involved in a case navigate the system wisely and efficiently. An attorney experienced in this system can help, advocating for your interests and better ensuring your rights are protected throughout the process.