The moratorium on jury trials in Riverside County Superior Court will continue until at least the last week of January as a precaution to reduce coronavirus exposure risks, court officials announced Thursday.
On Dec. 7, Presiding Judge John Vineyard directed that all scheduled trial proceedings be postponed until December 31, based on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s region-by-region stay-at-home order.
The order calls for broad limits on day-to-day activity amid the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases. The baseline determinant for implementation is 15% intensive care unit bed capacity. Any region where the number of beds falls below that threshold triggers a lockdown.
Southern California, including Riverside County, has been below the threshold for three weeks. Because conditions have not improved, Vineyard said the suspension of jury trials should continue until at least Jan. 29, when there will be another assessment.
“The order is only applicable to jury trials that have not commenced,” according to a court statement. “This order does not affect jury trials that are in progress, which will be addressed on a case-by-case basis.”
Vineyard first mandated a blanket halt to all jury trials countywide in mid-March, when he closed eight courthouses under the governor’s original stay-at-home order.
All but four courthouses were reopened in June, when jury proceedings were additionally allowed to resume, with health safety protocols in place.
Vineyard officially will be replaced as presiding judge Friday, when Superior Court Judge John Monterosso begins a two-year term. He will make the decision in late January on whether to permit new jury trials, or continue the suspension.