MONTPELIER — Local courthouses can hold criminal and civil jury trials after Jan. 1 with permission from court officials, the Vermont Supreme Court announced Monday afternoon.
“Superior courts seeking to hold a jury trial must secure the approval of the Chief Superior Judge and the Court Administrator before summoning jurors and holding a jury trial,” the state judiciary said in a news release.
Before giving the green light, Chief Superior Judge Brian Grearson and Court Administrator Patricia Gabel will consider various factors. These include the current course of the coronavirus pandemic, whether the courthouse has enough space to enable trial participants to socially distance and if there’s enough staffing for a trial, according to the judicial emergency procedures updated Dec. 4.
Trials that are already scheduled may be cancelled as pandemic-related circumstances require, the judiciary said.
Criminal jury trials were earlier expected to restart Monday via a case in Windham County — until coronavirus infections started climbing after Halloween. The judiciary decided to again put it on hold in November.
Hundreds of Vermont inmates are currently being held in jail while awaiting trial.
The directive to restart civil jury trials after the New Year has been in place since May.
The state Supreme Court also extended the period of Vermont’s judicial emergency, changing its end date from Jan. 1 to March 31. The judicial emergency — which has been in effect since the pandemic hit in mid-March — has led to changes in the court’s established procedures, such as the suspension of jury trials and the holding of court hearings remotely.
The judiciary said the emergency declaration allows courts to respond to the ongoing dynamic nature of the pandemic.