The 5th Judicial Circuit has suspended jury trials and grand jury proceedings at its courthouses in Citrus, Hernando and Marion counties due to high COVID-19 testing rates of positivity in those counties. The suspension takes place in accordance with the COVID-19-related policy outlined by the Florida Supreme Court.
According to Jeffrey K. Fuller, Esq, Chief Deputy Court Administrator for the 5th Judicial Circuit, in March the State Supreme Court issued a COVID-19 Public Safety and Operational Plan. Under the plan, courts serving counties where positivity rates either met or exceeded 11 percent must suspend jury trials and grand jury proceedings.
“For example the positivity rate for Hernando County last week was 14.5 percent and this week it is 11.7,” he said on Friday. “For Marion county it is 17.4 percent.”
As a result of the suspension, prospective jurors for trials slated for Jan. 19 and Feb. 1 were ordered not to report on those days. They are relieved of jury duty until they receive a new jury summons by mail.
“We didn’t want to get that many people together in one room at the same time.”
No other cases have been suspended, Fuller said.
“Some cases scheduled for March might be okay,” he said. .
Just how long the temporary suspension will last is unknown.
“The positivity rates have to be below 11 percent for two weeks,” Fuller said. “Exactly how long will it take until we get back to pre-COVID-19 operation, I don’t know.”