SAN ANTONIO – With the COVID-19 positivity rate at 9.2% and climbing steadily, local administrative Judge Ron Rangel has been meeting with criminal and district court judges to discuss extending the moratorium on in-person jury trials.
The current moratorium will expire on Dec. 31.
“There is a variance of opinions,” Rangel said Friday. “I think, overall, the judges are confirmed, or have confirmed to me, that they do desire to focus on community safety.”
To Rangel, that means extending the moratorium.
“I do not anticipate in-person jury trials to be at the earliest until mid-February,” he said. “However, I do not see it extended much further beyond that.”
Rangel said that is due in part to assurances that a vaccine is on the way. He also plans to review the COVID-19 numbers from over the holidays into mid-January to factor in his decision.
Other options the judges discussed concerned jury summons.
“I think, initially, there were some judges that were thinking, ‘Hey, let’s throw out some summons now, and let’s try to get things going now,’” Rangel said.
Rangel said that would be a costly mistake in case the number of cases spikes.
He said he and his colleagues also discussed the backlog of cases awaiting trial.
“I don’t think that it is so significant at this point yet, that we should risk the health and safety of the community and all the participants by starting in-person jury trials,” Rangel said.
Rangel said that community safety must always win when it is a balance between community safety and judicial economy.