Supreme court postpones all new jury trials, keeps clerk of court offices open

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Judicial Branch/Iowa Supreme Court building from iowacourts.gov

On March 14, the Iowa Supreme Court issued an order postponing all criminal jury trials until April 20 and all civil jury trials until May 4 unless the jury has been sworn in. The postponements are to protect public safety by mitigating the impact of coronavirus/COVID-19. Clerk of court offices throughout the state will remain open.

“We are very concerned about balancing the need to keep our courthouses open with the safety of our jurors and everyone who uses Iowa courthouses,” Chief Justice Susan Christensen said. “We have heard concerns from judges, attorneys, and jurors about court procedures that require large groups of people to gather in the courthouse or a courtroom so we completed a comprehensive review of what other states have done in response to coronavirus/COVID-19. The procedures in this order keep Iowa courts open to the fullest possible extent while protecting the public and our employees by giving judges the tools and flexibility that they need.”

“We are aware of the Chief Justice’s order,” Marion County Attorney Ed Bull said. “Monday we will review with Judge Guiter and our clerks’ office how to move forward. We are committed to doing our part to make the Court System work while at the same time being mindful that our citizens’ health is the number one priority. My office will continue to work in concert with public health, EMA, sheriff’s office and the Board of Supervisors to provide services to the people of Marion County. Citizens should be aware that if they have questions about Covid-19/Coronavirus they can dial 211.”

The order also sets the priority case types for rescheduling criminal jury trials, allows district courts to accept written guilty pleas in felony cases, suspends all grand jury proceedings, and allows defendants to waive initial appearance by executing a written waiver. The order includes procedures to mitigating the impact of coronavirus/COVID-19 in small claim cases, juvenile cases, appellate cases and problem solving courts. The full order is posted on the Iowa Judicial Branch COVID-19 Information and Updates webpage at: https://www.iowacourts.gov/iowa-courts/covid-19-information-and-updates/