Recently the Kentucky Supreme Court issued a list of new mandates which limited court proceeding in all 120 counties in Kentucky. Among these mandates was the suspension of jury trials until at least April 2021. Chief Justice of Kentucky John D. Minton Jr. conveyed to court personnel that it is imperative to restrict court activities to protect both the public and the court staff from exposure to Covid-19. "The good news is that a vaccine is on the horizon and we’re starting to see a path out of this deep crisis," he said. "In the meantime, we must continue to ensure justice for the Commonwealth while protecting the health of our employees and the public."
This new mandate has left people across the state wondering what will happen with their pending cases. At first glance some might think this is harmful to their case; however, this additional time-period could prove to be beneficial to clients and their cases. During this time, it allows for attorneys to more thoroughly analyze any and all discovery, find and prepare witnesses to testify, secure experts, and much more. Therefore, this postponement in the court proceedings is an extension of trial preparation for most attorneys.
Some other restrictions include:
- Limiting entrance to judicial facilities
- Requiring remote hearings in most proceedings
- Requiring grand juries to either be conducted remotely or suspended
- Postponing all show cause dockets
- Requiring judicial sales to be conducted either remotely or outside and in accordance with CDC guidelines
Many cases in the court system have been conducted via Zoom, Skype, or other electronic video meeting systems. This is positive because it makes attending the hearings less burdensome on the client; however, it is harder to convey arguments and evidence through the computer. Many cases do not have a trial date due to the delay, which is beneficial to clients not in custody because they have the ability to prove rehabilitation and correction of behavior without being incarcerated. However, the clients who are in jail are in danger of or are dealing with significant delays, overcrowding, freedom restrictions, illnesses, etc.
The suspension of grand juries has proven to be beneficial because some of the pre-arrest allegations have been suspended and the courts have been unable to go forward with establishing a factual basis of a case. This could mean those pre-arrest cases will never be substantiated, and official charges might not be filed. Another possibility is that if charges are still filed, this delay in the court process has allowed for defenses and strategies on approaching the charges to be formulated in a way to best protect the interests of the client.
The delays in the Criminal Justice System due to Covid-19 has created pros and cons for all involved. From a criminal defense standpoint, the postponing of certain cases is not necessarily a bad thing and may prove beneficial for some defendants. On the flip side, the delay may also cause more turmoil, stress, and anxiety for the individuals who are stuck with the case slowly progressing and hanging over their head indefinitely. Either way, everyone is navigating through this together and adapting to each new mandate in the most effective way possible.
If you have a legal issue arise in Kentucky, Ohio, or Indiana, contact Bleile & Dawson today for a confidential consultation with one of our skilled attorneys.