Federal courthouse in downtown San Diego. Photo by Chris Stone

Criminal and civil trials in San Diego federal court will be suspended for 30 days starting Tuesday as part of ongoing efforts to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, though the city’s federal courthouses will remain open for limited purposes.

In a series of emergency orders drafted Tuesday by Chief U.S. District Judge Larry Alan Burns, all criminal and civil trials at San Diego’s two federal courthouses, as well the federal courthouse in El Centro, will be postponed until at least April 16.

Outside of trials, Burns’ order held that individual judges could conduct some proceedings on a case-by-case basis, possibly via telephone or video conferencing “where practicable and consistent with the law.”

The courthouses will remain open “subject to the limitations of this order,” as well as a previous order issued last week, which restricted certain people — such as people who traveled to high-risk countries or had apparent COVID-19 symptoms — from entering federal courthouses.

In his written order, Burns said the suspension of proceedings was the result of a number of factors, including public health officials’ recommendations to limit public gatherings to no more than 10 people.

Burns also wrote that the U.S. Attorney’s Office does not expect to be able to gather a quorum of grand jurors to serve during the national emergency, while federal inmates have been restricted access to defense counsel since the various states of emergency were declared by President Donald Trump, Gov. Gavin Newsom and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

“The effect of these public health recommendations and the concerns and restrictions that they have generated has greatly jeopardized the court’s ability to obtain an adequate spectrum of trial and grand jurors, and impairs the availability of counsel, witnesses, parties, the public, Probation and Pretrial Services and court staff to be present in the courtroom,” Burns wrote.

The federal court suspension follows Monday’s suspension of San Diego state court proceedings until April 3.

The San Diego County Superior Court system suspended all non-emergency services, which includes postponements of all criminal, civil, family law, traffic, small claims, juvenile and probate cases. Jury duty service has also been fulfilled for all prospective jurors summoned to appear in court through April 3.

— City News Service

Show comments