DES MOINES, Iowa — In light of new information about community spread of COVID-19 in Iowa, the state's highest court issued an order on Saturday night, postponing all criminal jury trials until April 20 and all civil jury trials until May 4 unless the jury has already been sworn in.
Court officials say the announcement is in an effort to protect public safety by reducing the spread of the coronavirus. Clerk offices for the court throughout the state will be remaining open.
Court officials tell us the postponements are to protect public safety by mitigating the impact of coronavirus/COVID-19. Clerk of court offices throughout the state will remain open.
In a statement, newly-selected Chief Justice Susan Christensen said: “We are very concerned about balancing the need to keep our courthouses open with the safety of our jurors and everyone who uses Iowa courthouses. We have heard concerns from judges, attorneys, and jurors about court procedures that require large groups of people to gather in the courthouse or a courtroom so we completed a comprehensive review of what other states have done in response to coronavirus/COVID-19. The procedures in this order keep Iowa courts open to the fullest possible extent while protecting the public and our employees by giving judges the tools and flexibility that they need.”
The order also sets the priority case types for rescheduling criminal jury trials, allows district courts to accept written guilty pleas in felony cases, suspends all grand jury proceedings, and allows defendants to waive initial appearance by executing a written waiver. The order includes procedures to mitigating the impact of coronavirus/COVID-19 in small claim cases, juvenile cases, appellate cases and problem solving courts.
The full order can be viewed here.
In the state's prisons, precautions are also being taken to keep prisoners and staff safe.
On Saturday, the state Department of Corrections issued a new advisory, suspending all visiting at state prisons until further notice. All volunteer activities in the prisons are suspended until further notice as well.