The suspension of jury trials in San Mateo County has been extended through Feb. 4 in response to health and safety concerns due to the rising count of COVID-19 cases, the San Mateo County Superior Court announced Tuesday.

All criminal, civil jury and mental health conservator trials are suspended through Feb. 4. The order does not apply to family law or juvenile cases. Preliminary hearings and conditional examinations will still be heard during this time, and Zoom appearances will still be allowed for some court appearances. In-custody arraignments will continue, along with out-of-custody domestic violence arraignments, bail motions for people in custody and parole hearings. The Redwood City and South San Francisco Clerk’s Offices are still closed to the public. Suspension of jury trials occurred periodically throughout 2020 due to COVID-19 cases and the dangers to the public. The court issued its initial jury trial suspension order Dec. 16 through Jan. 8. Around 1,000 people show up per week to be considered for jury duty.

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said the delay is appropriate given the pandemic and rising COVID-19 cases but will mean a backlog of cases once jury trials begin. It could take several years to get out of the backlog, although the court will make it a priority to address it when court restrictions end, Wagstaffe said. With no jury trials in December and January, the court will have to call in more people than usual for jury summons in the coming months to address the backlog. Wagstaffe recommends that people with jury summons through Feb. 4 still call in for jury instructions.

The District Attorney’s Office currently has fewer cases than it would typically at the beginning of a new year. The first two weeks of January are ordinarily busy because not many trials happen during the last two weeks of December. When jury trials resume later in the year, Wagstaffe expects to see many criminal cases move forward to jury trials. The District Attorney’s Office has been working on other backlogged cases in the month since jury trials stopped.

The order allows all preliminary hearings to move forward, which will help the District Attorney’s Office move cases forward it hasn’t been able to work on previously. Under the initial order, only some preliminary hearings were allowed to continue, while in this order, all preliminary hearings are allowed.

The full court order can be found on the San Mateo County Superior Court website or at https://www.sanmateocourt.org/documents/court_news_and_notices/011221b.pdf.

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