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County pauses some jury trials due to COVID surge

Clark County District Court has halted all jury trials that are expected to last longer than a week due to increased COVID-19 cases.

An administrative order from the court was filed Wednesday, which halted the longer jury trials for 30 days. The beginning of the pandemic had brought jury trials to a halt, but Chief District Judge Linda Bell began permitting them again in January 2021 in the midst of a backlog of cases.

The recent surge of coronavirus cases in Clark County has made lengthier trials challenging, according to a statement from the District Court.

“The disruption of trials raises concerns about potential mistrials, increased cost to litigants, and unnecessary inconvenience to jurors,” the statement said. “At the same time, the Court is aware of the importance of continuing to conduct trials when possible.”

To prevent the spread of the virus and “due to staffing shortages,” Wednesday’s order also required “appearances by alternative means” for lawyers and litigants in all court proceedings except for bench trials, jury trials and in-custody defendants appearing for arraignment hearings in lower courts.

“For proceedings other than trials, no in-person appearance shall be made unless the assigned District court Judge or Hearing Master determines that there is an extraordinary circumstance requiring a personal appearance,” the order said.

The COVID-19 omicron variant, which is highly transmissible and has caused a major surge of the disease across the world, accounts for 92 percent of cases in Clark County, according to data from the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. Follow @k_newberg on Twitter.