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Crime & Courts

Alaska courts again delay return to in-person felony trials

Superior Court Judge Kevin Saxby held arraignments telephonically with defendants and attorneys on Thursday, July 30, 2020. (Bill Roth / ADN)

Citing worsening pandemic conditions, the Alaska Supreme Court again delayed the resumption of in-person felony and misdemeanor trials, this time until Jan. 4.

In an order released Friday, Chief Justice Joel Bolger wrote that while misdemeanor trials were set to resume Nov. 2, an increase in COVID-19 cases and a recommendation from the governor necessitate another delay to a system that has faced multiple false starts in resuming trials amid the pandemic.

“Case counts across the state have continued to escalate,” Bolger wrote in an order. “In response, the presiding judges have recently entered orders suspending jury trials and in-person grand jury proceedings in many locations.”

The order calls for all jury trials and in-person grand jury proceedings to be suspended until Jan. 4. Hearings or proceedings that can be held by videoconference can go forward, the order says.

Judges can allow a trial in “exception circumstances,” according to the order.

The order also cites Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s Nov. 12 alert ordering state employees to work remotely when possible.