Update Regarding The Impact Of Covid-19 On Civil Jury Trials

As of December 20, 2021, the Crisis Standards of Care (“CSC”) that were activated throughout Idaho based on the risk posed by COVID-19 were all deactivated. However, Idaho’s courts are still facing some challenges and no civil jury trials have been held in Idaho’s largest county, Ada County, since March 2020.  

Back in September 2021, the Idaho Supreme Court (“ISC”) issued an order cancelling all jury trials in Idaho for over two months through December 6, 2021 in light of the COVID-19 surge that occurred in the fall. Even though some Idaho courts have commenced jury trials, it is possible that the backlog of both criminal and civil jury trials could impact civil trial dates in the upcoming months, as detailed further below.

In its December 2021 order, the ISC ruled that jury trials could commence unless: (1) the county hosting the jury trial “is located in a public health district in which Idaho’s [CSC] are activated,” or (2) the Administrative District Judge of the county has determined that the county “has a seven-day moving average incidence rate of confirmed or presumed cases of COVID-19 of 25.0 or greater per 100,000 population as reflected on the Cases by County page of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare’s COVID-19 Data Dashboard.” 

Many of Idaho’s courts successfully resumed jury trials in December. For instance, all counties in the Third Judicial District, including Canyon County, resumed jury trials on December 7, 2021; and all counties in the Fourth Judicial District, including Ada County, resumed on December 13, 2021. See State Judicial Emergency Orders. However, since that time, many of Idaho’s courts have again stopped trials. By way of example, as of January 10, 2022, jury trials are prohibited in Canyon County and the entire Fourth Judicial District.

HOW THE CRIMINAL BACKLOG MAY IMPACT YOUR CASES

Unfortunately, based on the number of months of jury trial suspensions in 2020 and 2021, including over two months of statewide suspension in late 2021, and the continued suspensions in some counties and districts, most (if not all) of Idaho’s courts are seeing a backlog of both civil and criminal jury trials. In early 2021, the Idaho Supreme Court indicated that all criminal cases would take priority over civil cases when jury trials resumed. See Order dated Feb. 3, 2021. This will likely remain the case each time jury trials resume because of criminal defendants’ constitutionally-guaranteed right to speedy trial. Because of this, civil trials in Idaho are likely to continue facing delays. For instance, our office previously had a February civil jury trial setting in a case that recently settled. As of today’s date, there are currently six criminal jury trials scheduled for that very same courtroom the day that trial was set to occur, and all six would have priority over a civil trial. Thus, it was unlikely that the trial would have gone forward as planned in February.

INSIGHTS FOR GF CLIENTS

Thank you for your patience as we navigate these unprecedented times, and we will continue to keep you apprised of any additional updates from the Idaho Courts.

Please contact a Gjording Fouser lawyer at 208.336.9777 if you would like any additional information about this topic or any other issues facing your company.