SJC May 26 COVID-19 order: courts continue to be closed
The state's highest court has spoken once again. Under the new Supreme Judicial Court order, courts will not be in open to the public in June. All court business will continue to be conducted virtually until at least July 1, 2020.
Who can go into a court house?
Not many people are allowed to enter a court house prior to July 1, 2020. The court house will only be open to people who have emergency matters. For emergency matters attorneys, parties, witnesses are allowed to come into court. In addition, if a GPS was ordered by a judge pursuant to a court order, the person with the GPS can come to court to install, maintain, or remove the GPS.
What about trials?
No jury trials will happen before September 8, 2020. All bench trials for criminal cases are to be continued to after July 1, 2020. A criminal bench trial can be conducted if a judge and the parties agree to have it virtually.
Grand jury is the process used to indict or bring certain charges and cases in superior court. Not all cases get indicted into superior court and is generally reserved for serious crimes like murder. The new order has halted the impalement of a new grand jury until September 8, 2020. The district attorney offices can still finish previously started investigations and indictments with the previous grand jury.
What it all means
Cases will take a lot longer to resolve and the backlog of cases will continue to grow. Even as the police are arresting and charging less people, the burden to the court system increases with each day it is closed. Jury trials being halted until September 8th the earliest has a significant impact on the system. With the fear of a second surge in the fall, there are rumors that courts will not conduct jury trials until 2021. With all this being the new reality, the courts will need to find new solutions to solve their growing case problem.