Presiding judges in the Alaska court system will be able to choose whether to go forward with criminal jury trials on a case by case basis soon, such as those held at the Dimond Courthouse, seen here Oct. 20, 2019. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Presiding judges in the Alaska court system will be able to choose whether to go forward with criminal jury trials on a case by case basis soon, such as those held at the Dimond Courthouse, seen here Oct. 20, 2019. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Mask policy, largely suspended jury trials remain in place for state’s courts

The presiding judge will choose to hold jury trials on a case-by-case basis going forward.

A recent order from Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Joel Bolger to the Alaska court system allows for the possibility of the resumption of general in-person criminal jury trials as early as mid-March.

“We have such high traffic in place that we want to make sure it’s safe for our customers,” said area court administrator James Kwon in a phone interview.

The end of Alaska’s disaster declaration will have no effect on the operation of the courts, according to a social media post from the court system.

Case resumption may be made by a motion to the trial court, outlines Bolger’s special order. The trial judge for the case will consider things like the age of the case, the custody status of the defendant, the type of offenses, and other factors before making a recommendation to the presiding judge, who will make the call.

“It’ll really be up to the presiding judges to make that decision on a case by case basis,” Kwon said.

Criminal jury trials will otherwise remain generally suspended until late April, the order states, and a review and possible continuation of this suspension is scheduled for February 26.

“More contagious strains of the coronavirus have appeared across the globe, and at least one such variant has been detected in Alaska,” states the order. “On the other hand, Alaska reportedly leads the nation in per capita coronavirus vaccinations. These circumstances require a cautious approach to reopening jury trials, allowing the first opportunity to parties who request them.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

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