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Coronavirus: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick suspend jury trials

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Jury trials in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have been suspended for 60 days amid concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

The Nova Scotia Supreme Court says the decision is effective immediately and applies to all jury trials that have not yet commenced in court.

“Earlier today, the province’s chief medical officer of health encouraged all individuals, employers and community organizations to limit gatherings to no more than 150 people to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus in Nova Scotia,” said Chief Justice Deborah K. Smith.

“The Supreme Court is following suit and out of an abundance of caution, is suspending jury trials, as the selection process often requires hundreds of potential jurors to attend court at the same time.”

The court says it will re-evaluate the decision in 60 days.

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Members of the public who have received a jury summons requiring them to come to court for jury duty within the next 60 days, and who are not presently sitting on a case, are officially released from that summons.

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The court says jurors who are currently participating in a jury trial are required to report to court as usual, but anyone exhibiting signs of fever, cough or flu-like symptoms are being told to contact the court immediately.

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New Brunswick’s Court of Queen’s Bench has also moved to suspend jury trials for 60 days after consultation with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell.

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“This exceptional decision is not taken lightly and will and will only remain in place until such time as measures are put in place to ensure that jury selection and a jury trial can take place with minimal public health risk to those citizens affected,” stated Chief Justice Tracey K. DeWare in a letter to provincial Justice Minister Andrea Anderson-Mason.

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Justice DeWare said in the interim, the court will work closely with the sheriff’s office and the Department of Health to identify measures that can be taken in the short term.

“The court is mindful of the constitutional rights of all accused persons to a trial within a reasonable period of time,” Justice DeWare continued.

“We are optimistic that, if necessary, measures can be put in place to allow the continuation of jury trials within the province while at the same time protecting the health and safety of those citizens who are called to participate.”

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