Suspension of Jury Trials

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November 13, 2020 - Message to the Bar from the Circuit Court Regarding Suspension of Jury Trials

Effective on Monday, November 16, 2020, through December 31, 2020, civil and criminal jury trials are suspended throughout the state, by order of Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera. This order, and four that accompanied it, may be viewed at Please read the following information carefully:

  • If you have a civil or criminal jury trial scheduled during this time period, your case will remain on the docket at the appointed date and time, but has been converted into a virtual status hearing. At that hearing, the assigned trial judge will inquire of you as to the possibilities of resolution, and whether the court can play a role in facilitating a settlement or plea. The litigants need not appear virtually, unless a settlement or plea is imminent.

  • Effective immediately, the court is reinstituting the “all active judges are plea-eligible” policy in criminal cases until December 31, 2020. This means that if the State and defense counsel agree on a plea to be entered before any active judge, the matter will be scheduled at the earliest possible time. Individual judges may choose to hear the pleas remotely and/or defer sentencing in appropriate cases. Pleas will be heard subject to the availability of that particular judge. If certain judges receive a disproportionate number of pleas such that they cannot be scheduled within a reasonable amount of time, the parties will be notified and asked to agree upon another active judge.

  • This procedure is available for pre-indictment pleas, and even though a pretrial date has already passed. It is not available where a case has already been set for a resolution conference before a senior (retired) judge, or a particular active judge is already scheduled to hear the plea, nor in the event that a plea has already been taken and sentencing has been deferred. It is also not available for appeals or jury-demanded cases from the District Court.

  • If the State and defense counsel agree on a plea before the active judge, counsel should contact the judge before whom the plea is to be taken by telephone, and a plea memo should be filed per the usual practice. The judge will notify the Assignment Office of the date and time for the proposed plea, and make arrangements for remote participation, if necessary. Judges should schedule the plea for no later than 9:00 a.m. on a morning docket, or else in the afternoon so as not to interfere with existing caseload. Defense counsel in all pleas should consider the possibility of remote pleas where warranted. The plea must be set before the close of business on Thursday, December 31, and should be heard as soon thereafter as possible.

  • All cases set for jury trial beginning January 4, 2021 will remain on the docket pending further direction from Chief Judge Barbera.

As the global pandemic persists throughout our community and the country, the court will continue to utilize Zoom for Government to conduct as many hearings as possible, and counsel should be prepared to try non-jury cases on that platform.

Robert A. Greenberg
Administrative Judge