While some legal work has been able to continue, jury trials came to a halt when the lockdowns began. The Virginia Supreme Court issued a March 16 Declaration of Judicial Emergency stating that no jury trials could convene anywhere in the commonwealth. The order was extended until at least the end of August, except for four local circuit courts that received Virginia Supreme Court approval to restart jury trials: Alleghany, Henrico and Stafford counties, and the city of Norfolk.
The Supreme Court put together a task force and asked each district court to submit a plan to resume jury trials. The plan must be approved by a panel of three justices in consultation with the Office of the Executive Secretary.
“Much of the court’s business has moved forward. But there’s a backlog [and] there’s a concern about how the courts will manage the influx of work” after jury trials resume, says Monica T. Monday, managing partner of Roanoke-based Gentry Locke Attorneys, which also has offices in Richmond and Lynchburg.
Jonathan Harmon, chairman of McGuireWoods LLP in Richmond, sees the Virginia Supreme Court’s steps as positive but isn’t making any predictions about when jury trials will be back statewide. “We have a ton of litigators. Some of them say late fall, others say not till the first quarter . Civil litigation is moving slowly.”