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State and federal jury trials in Maine were suspended Friday in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Jon Levy, chief U.S. District Court judge in Maine, ordered that all federal civil and criminal jury trials, jury selections and grand jury proceedings in the state be suspended until after May 1.
The judicial branch of Maine state government posted a statement Friday afternoon on its website, saying “all in-person court events for family, civil, and criminal dockets are postponed” effective immediately, through May 1. There will be some exceptions for jail inmates, juveniles, and proceedings involving protection orders or mental health determinations, the state order said.
No criminal or civil trials will be held in state courts until after May 1, and no grand jury proceedings, though trials in progress may be completed in the meantime, state officials said.
“The courthouses of Maine remain open to the public,” state judiciary officials wrote in the release. “If you have questions about whether you should go to a courthouse, please call the clerk of court at that location to have your questions answered.”
The suspension of federal court proceedings takes place immediately to “reduce the congregation of large numbers of people in courthouses,” Levy wrote. He also noted that the court’s plan for pandemics and infectious diseases calls for halting certain court activities during a pandemic. Levy noted that both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Maine Center for Disease Control have described the spreading Coronavirus as a pandemic. On Wednesday, the World Health Organization classified the disease as a global pandemic.
Non-jury criminal and civil events and hearings will continue as scheduled. The Margaret Chase Smith Courthouse in Bangor and the Edward T. Gignoux Courthouse in Portland will remain open for other business, Levy wrote.
The order also mandated that delays caused by the suspension are exempt from federal rules that guarantee speedy trials.
The court can issue an order to restart jury proceedings. Otherwise, the suspension will end on May 1, unless it is extended further, the filing said.
Courts in other states have taken similar measures in response to the outbreak. Also on Friday, the Kentucky Supreme Court suspended most business for 30 days. On Thursday, New Hampshire suspended all Superior Court jury trials for 30 days.
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