In September, the district courts in the Rocket Docket began to carefully resume operations that had been suspended due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The courts resumed criminal jury trials using a modified process with altered courtrooms that allowed for sufficient social distancing throughout the entire process (though it did not resume jury trials in civil matters). Under this system, a number of criminal jury trials were successfully completed in the District. When conditions began to deteriorate in November, those criminal jury trials were suspended through January 18, 2021. For similar reasons, on December 11, 2021, the Court also temporarily suspended all in-person misdemeanor, traffic, and petty offense dockets through January 18, 2021.
In General Order 2021-01, Chief Judge Mark Davis lays out in detail the extent to which conditions relating to the pandemic have continued to deteriorate with the Eastern District of Virginia. Based upon that analysis, the Court has extended the temporary suspension of criminal jury trials through February 28, 2021. The Court has also suspended all grand jury proceedings until that date, noting that, while no formal suspension of such proceedings had previously been imposed, grand juries have not been meeting in the District since criminal jury trials were suspended in mid-November. Finally, the Court has also suspended all misdemeanor, traffic, and petty offense dockets through February 28, 2021, as well.
While these suspensions pose may pose difficulties for prosecutors and private practitioners as well as defendants and parties to civil litigation, the Court’s decision reflects a careful consideration of the need to protect parties and others from this dangerous pandemic. The Court will certainly be watching developments in the District closely in order to determine when it can restart these various proceedings so that criminal and civil cases can move forward.
David Deitch leads the White Collar Defense and Corporate Compliance practice at Berenzweig Leonard. David is an experienced white collar trial lawyer who has tried more than 100 jury trials to verdict in federal and state courts around the nation. He can be reached at [email protected]