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Law Society Seeking Clarification on Courts’ Closures . . But Not For One Judge

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The Law Society is seeking clarification from the Chief Justice as to the operation of the courts given the impending elevation of the COVID-19 virus alert level to the highest level.

New Zealand courts are to suspend 238 jury trials for nine weeks from Monday due to the Covid-19 coronavirus and the Chief Justice has said that new jury trials will not commence for nine weeks.

The judicial office for senior courts said that included 216 district court jury trials which had firm dates, plus 208 backup trials.

However an application to Justice Jagose to suspend an Auckland jury trial on an application from lawyer Lester Cordwell was rejected by the Judge.

Law Society Seeking Clarification on Courts' Closures . . But Not For One Judge 2
Justice Jagose

In his decision, the Judge wrote:

“The juror had not travelled overseas recently, or been in known close contact with either any suspected Covid-19 sufferer or their close contacts,” the judge said.

“My initial view was, without fever symptoms, the juror could and should sit. But the Director-General of Health’s Covid-19 guidelines changed later that day, from fever ‘and’ other symptoms to fever ‘or’ other symptoms. On that basis, having at least one of those other symptoms, the juror’s afflicted presence in the jury risked imposing undue pressure on the other jurors, and I stood the juror down.”

Jury Trial Ban

Twenty two high court trials have been suspended in Auckland, the Waikato and Bay of Plenty, Wellington and Christchurch, according to a report from RNZ.

A spokesperson said the suspension period overlapped with the Easter recess, resulting in the need to re-schedule an estimated 59 weeks of High Court trials.

The Law Society tweeted: “The NZBA (New Zealand Bar Association), CBA (Criminal Bar Association), and Law Society have sent a joint communication to the Chief Justice seeking clarity and a further response on court protocols. Updates to come.”

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