Supreme Court order delays jury trials further

A new Indiana State Supreme Court order extends court guidelines to May 4, at the earliest.

The guidelines for courts, which include the suspension of jury trials in criminal and civil cases until after May 4, are a continuation of the measures put in place by the state’s Supreme Court on March 18, and are an extension of state and federal guidelines for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

State and local stay-at-home orders make it virtually impossible to hold jury trials, said Peter Nugent, Johnson County Superior Court 2 judge.

“I didn’t see (Monday’s) order as changing a lot,” Nugent said. “Later in the month they’re going to make the determination on whether we’re in a better or worse situation and extend it or not. (In terms of) the relief to jury trials and speedy trial requirements, it will be impossible to get a jury in here.”

Inmates who are awaiting trial at the Johnson County jail are entitled to a speedy trial, within 70 days. The ongoing public health emergency warrants an exception. Nugent will ensure pending trials are prioritized once the order is lifted, he said. Superior Court 2 may have one such case.

Local courts, including Johnson County Circuit Court, Johnson County Superior Courts 1, 2, 3 and 4, as well as Franklin and Greenwood city courts, filed for emergency relief as temporary measures to protect the health and safety of the community and provide access to justice, Nugent said in March.

Civil hearings may still be held by phone or video conferencing, and criminal hearings may be held remotely.