A D.C. Superior Court judge has again extended the period for bringing criminal cases to trial.
Chief Judge Anita Josey-Herring first extended the time period on March 15, 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In D.C., defendants must normally be indicted within 90 days of the issuance of an order of detention, and their trials must begin within 100 days of that order. There’s an exception for charges of murder and assault with intent to kill while armed; those charges carry nine-month deadlines.
Under the latest order, those limits are suspended until March 15 for indictments, April 15 for the nine-month cases, and April 26 for the 100-day limits for trials.
Doug Buchanan, director of media and public relations for D.C. courts, said the pandemic has forced the courts to employ several precautionary measures to limit the exposure of COVID-19, which in turn limited the courts’ ability to handle trials.
Buchanan said that, notwithstanding the extension of the judicial emergency, the courts returned to full operation in early September, with ongoing physical distancing requirements and space limitations that have restricted the number of trials that can be held each day.
Additionally, D.C. courts are using the DCCA Ceremonial Courtroom for jury selection in order for the courts to select multiple juries a day.
Starting on Jan. 10, 2022, jury trials will be set consistent with pre-pandemic scheduling, Buchanan said.
As of the end of last month, more than 50 cases had been set for a jury trial in 2021; eight cases have proceeded to trial; two felony cases are currently in progress, and 12 more cases remain set to proceed to trial prior to the end of the year, according to D.C. courts.
An additional 30 felony cases were previously set for trial but were dismissed by the government or resolved following the entry of a guilty plea, according to D.C. courts.
About 200 cases have already been set for a jury trial in 2022 with additional cases being scheduled each day, according to D.C. courts.
Fourteen cases originally set for trial in 2022 have been disposed of through the entry of a guilty plea or government dismissal, according to D.C. courts.
While the division for criminal cases continues to prioritize detained cases for trial, it has resumed setting release cases for trial commencing in January, with a focus on gun cases, Buchanan said.