The Louisiana Supreme Court has issued two orders affecting court operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s office reports.
The first order mandates that no civil or criminal jury trial shall commence in any Louisiana district court before June 30, 2020.
The second order extends court closures, consistent with Governor John Bel Edwards’ extension of state stay-at-home orders, to Monday, May 18, 2020.
Anyone who has received a notice or summons to appear in a criminal court hearing previously set to be heard before May 18, 2020, will be re-notified as to the new date on which they should appear.
Residents who received a summons for jury duty for May 4 or May 18 are released and do not need to call in or report to the Caddo Parish Clerk of Court. Caddo Parish juvenile court already is in limited operation and will commence trials next week. Those who have received a subpoena to a juvenile court case must abide by the subpoena; they may call the juvenile DA office at 429-7647 to see if they can testify via video technology.
Caddo Parish District Attorney James E. Stewart Sr. has asked district court judges to consider the backlog of criminal cases created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our court system sets aside particular weeks for jury trials, which we call ‘jury terms,” DA Stewart said. “Since the closing of the court, we will have lost 17 criminal jury terms from the months of March through June of this year. Getting cases to trial is of extreme importance to me.”
Caddo Parish has 11 district court judges, with five assigned to criminal court and six handling civil and family court matters, he noted.
“With this backlog in mind, I have requested the Court to add additional jury terms starting in July and continuing through the end of the year. Additionally, I ask that the court increase the normal number of jury terms for the calendar year 2021. It is my understanding that the non-criminal court judges are willing to make themselves available to preside over additional jury trials as needed. These are extraordinary circumstances and will require extraordinary measures in response to get the court system back in order.
“Please be assured that your District Attorney’s Office will do its part to make the long transition back to regular business as smooth as possible,” DA Stewart said. “Be safe, follow guidelines, and pray for our community. We will get through this together.”