York County's top judge to suspend jury trials through mid-January in wake of COVID-19

Liz Evans Scolforo
York Dispatch

York County's top judge has suspended all trials in the county through mid-January amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to the state's Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.

York County Common Pleas President Judge Joseph C. Adams on Tuesday issued an order "to suspend jury trials effective November 30, 2020 and continuing through January 18, 2021."

His order continues: "Any postponement caused by the judicial emergency shall be considered a court postponement and shall constitute excludable time for purposes of (court rules)."

In Pennsylvania, defendants must be brought to trial within a year, not including defense delays. That's known as Rule 600 or the speedy trial rule.

York County Judicial Center

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court gave common pleas president judges authority to allow court proceedings to be done by group videoconference.

The state's high court also allowed criminal cases to be postponed without violating the speedy trial rule.

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Adams has reinstituted the trial-suspension order in light of "the resurgent threat to public health posed by COVID-19," according to the AOPC.

The order is designed to protect jurors, case participants and court employees from the virus.

The AOPC said that potential jurors who received summonses to appear for jury service between Nov. 30 and Jan. 18 should disregard the summonses and not report to the York County Judicial Center.

Those potential jurors will receive a mailed written notice that their term of service has been canceled, the AOPC said.

York County President Judge Joseph Adams appears at a press conference at the commissioner's chambers Monday, March 17, 2020. At the meeting, York County President Commissioner Julie Wheeler declared a state of emergency in the county due to the Coronavirus. Bill Kalina photo

Adams' order affects only jury trials, the AOPC said, and no other proceedings have been canceled or postponed.

Defendants, case participants and witnesses who receive notices to appear for trial during this period should contact their attorneys or the agency or person who requested the subpoena, according to the AOPC.

On Wednesday, the AOPC announced that the West Manchester Township office of District Judge Keith Albright had temporarily closed because one worker had tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, and a second worker has exhibited symptoms.

The office will be reopened after it's cleaned, the AOPC said, and any member of the public possibly exposed will be notified by public health officials.

At this point, there's nothing to indicate the public was exposed to the virus in Albright's office, the AOPC said.

— Reach senior crime reporter Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.

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