The Virgin Islands District Court issued a new order Monday, reinstating some COVID-19-related restrictions and postponing all in-person trials until at least the end of June due to rising active infections in the territory.
Chief Justice Robert Molloy issued the 38th order regarding court operations during the COVID-19 outbreak. Given the increase in the number of cases, the order “will reinstate certain restrictions on the operations of the Court” and will take effect immediately, until June 30, “unless modified or terminated earlier. or extended by further order of the Court”.
As the pandemic subsided in recent months, the District Court resumed holding in-person hearings and trials and began processing a backlog of cases.
Several high-profile defendants stood trial, including former Casino Control Commission contractor Stephanie Barnes and gang leader Paul Girard in St. Croix, and John Jackson in St. Thomas, a former boxer Olympian who sexually abused three underage girls. All three were found guilty by juries.
In an effort to allow for social distancing, some jurors were seated in the viewing gallery. The Girard and Jackson trials did not allow spectators and members of the press to watch the proceedings in the same courtroom as the judge and the parties, and spectators were seated in separate courtrooms to watch the trial on a live video stream on a monitor.
President Joseph Biden extended the federal state of emergency on February 18, and Governor Albert Bryan Jr.’s March 13, 2020 state of emergency order has also been extended multiple times and remains in effect.
The court has issued similar orders regarding the transactions since March 17, 2020.
Molloy found that “over the past few weeks, the Virgin Islands has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases. The Virgin Islands Department of Health (“DOH”) reported, as of May 25, 2022, that there are currently 960 active cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Additionally, as reported by the DOH, 3,093 new positive test results were recorded out of 36,797 tests administered from April 28, 2022 to May 25, 2022, corresponding to an 8.41% positivity rate and an infection rate. daily of 114.56 cases during this period. 27 day period.
The Department of Health also reported that “as of May 25, 2022, 57,078 people are fully immunized and 70,191 people in the Virgin Islands have obtained at least one dose of a vaccine.”
The court will remain open for business in both the St. Croix and the St. Thomas-St. John Divisions, but all civil and criminal jury and bench trials scheduled for June are continuing pending a new order.
Seated grand juries are not permitted to meet and no new grand juries will be convened during the month of June.
In criminal cases, the month is also considered “excluded time” for the purposes of the Speedy Trials Act, to ensure the court can sit a full jury and hold a fair trial.
“All in-person legal proceedings must be limited to those that are required by law and cannot be continued. All bailiffs are encouraged to conduct proceedings by teleconference or videoconference where possible and to the extent permitted by law,” according to the order.