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Jury Trials Suspended in Maine's Federal Courts Over Virus Fears

Jury trials for federal civil and criminal cases in Maine have been postponed asa result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Federal court, Portland (public domanv-

In a general order by the United States District Court for the District of Maine, the federal court has adopted its pandemic plan and suspended trials to reduce the congregation of people in courthouses. The measure also affects grand jury proceedings.

The restriction won’t be lifted until a further order is issued by the court. It means the 30 day time restriction for an indictment to be filed against defendants will be stopped (known as tolling) until the restriction ends.

Part of the general order reads: “The Court finds that the ends of justice served by ordering the continuance of all criminal jury trials outweighs each defendant’s right to and the public’s interest in speedy indictment or trial.” The order is in effect until May 1.

Judge-led trials, known as bench trials where the right to be tried by a jury has been waived, will still go ahead. Other routine hearings on cases will also continue.

There has been no word yet on what the state's Judicial branch will do to combat the spread of the virus in Maine's district and superior courts to limit exposure.

In Massachusetts, the Commonwealth's Supreme Judicial Court has not gone as far as the Maine's federal court - ordering that jury trials that have already been selected will go ahead and proceed to verdict. The Mass. SJC also issued a separate order that anyone who is showing symptoms or had any exposure to the coronavirus COVID-19 may not enter a courthouse or other state facility including probation offices. There has been no announcement yet on the Massachusetts federal court's proposed action, if any.


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