Federal Jury Trials in Omaha Stay Paused Until 2021


A flag waves at half-staff at the Roman L. Hruska Federal Courthouse in downtown Omaha on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020. (Scott Stewart/Daily Record)
By 
Scott Stewart
The Daily Record

Federal jury trials will remain suspended in Omaha through at least Jan. 3 after a new order by Chief District Judge John M. Gerrard.

Gerrard ordered all jury trials continued that were set to begin on or before Jan. 3, extending a previous order. He cited the “ongoing local and national emergency occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic” as the reason.

The order notes that the period of time from Nov. 2 through Jan. 3 will be excluded from calculation required by the Speedy Trial Act.

About two dozen U.S. district courts have posted orders suspending jury trials or grand jury proceedings, according to a release from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

The district court orders are primarily in cold-weather states in the North, Midwest and Plains, and they have been posted since about mid-October on 25 court websites. An additional dozen courts have continued suspensions that were already in effect, the office said in its release.

The U.S. District of Colorado, for example, has suspended all jury and in-person bench trials, as well as all grand jury sessions, through Jan. 8.

“In order to resume jury trials, we will need to see the key health markers, as measured by the Colorado Department of Health, go down to acceptable levels,” said Chief Judge Philip A. Brimmer, of the District of Colorado. “I am concerned that the markers will stay high for several months, despite recent efforts by the governor and metro-area mayors to put in place new restrictions.”

The districts posting orders include Alaska; Arizona; Eastern District of Arkansas; Colorado; Northern, Central and Southern Districts of Illinois; Northern and Southern Districts of Indiana; Kansas; Eastern and Western Districts of Kentucky; Maine; Maryland; Minnesota; Western District of Missouri; Nebraska; Nevada; Northern District of Oklahoma; Western District of Pennsylvania; Western District of Texas; Utah; Eastern District of Virginia; Eastern District of Washington; and Western District of Wisconsin. In addition, Northern District of New York has postponed jury trials until Jan. 19 without issuing an order, and the District of Idaho has lowered its courtroom capacity to 10 people.

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