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Massachusetts Again Postpones Resumption Of Jury Trials

State jury trials in Massachusetts will not resume this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The earliest date for the resumption of jury trials is now Jan. 11, 2021, the Trial Court said in a statement Friday. The statement cites "the current situation in the Commonwealth with respect to COVID-19 and the expectation of rising infections during the holiday period."

A limited number of such trials were expected to begin Nov. 30, with the Trial Court noting that jury trials would restart in phases.

In Phase 1, trials would be limited to six-person juries in certain courthouses. That phase would continue for two months before additional jury trials could resume. The Trial Court said it continues to look for locations for jury trials in counties that do not have courthouses suitable for holding them during the pandemic.

"The Trial Court will complete its preparations for Phase 1 over the coming weeks so that the required comprehensive protocols that address the health and safety of jurors and other trial participants will be in place in all courthouses that are identified for Phase 1 jury trials," the statement said. "Court leaders continue to seek to balance the critical right to trial by jury with health and safety concerns of trial participants."

The Office of the Jury Commissioner is canceling jurors' summons for dates before then, and those trials will be rescheduled.

Massachusetts courts will further limit in-person interactions after Thanksgiving because of the coronavirus pandemic. On Monday, the Trial Court said it will significantly reduce in-person court operations from Friday, Nov. 27 through Friday, Dec. 4.

Courthouses will remain open during that time, but most matters, including some of those previously scheduled, will be handled remotely. "Trial Court leaders have concluded that this plan is the best approach to balancing the need to provide access to courts and protecting the health and safety of court staff and court users," the Trial Court said in a statement.

This article was originally published on November 20, 2020.

Deborah Becker Twitter Host/Reporter
Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.

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