New rules that went into effect Wednesday for Oregon’s courts do-away with social distancing requirements and masks, in most cases. The rules will also pave the way more jury trials, which have been slowed during the pandemic.
Throughout the pandemic, courts have remained open, but like nearly all aspects of society, were operating under notable restrictions to slow the spread of COVID-19. That meant longer waits for people with cases in the justice system.
Those wait times should ease under new rules issued by Oregon Supreme Court Chief Justice Martha Walters.
“My goal in issuing those orders has been to meet our courts’ obligations to the public while also continuing to minimize health risks for judges, staff, litigants and case participants, interpreters, and members of the public who come into our courthouses and offices,” Walters said in the new order.
Jury trails were significantly limited due to social distancing rules. In 2019, there were 2,213 jury trials held across Oregon, according to state court officials. In 2020, that was slashed to just 800. So far this year, there have been 391 jury trials.
Walters’ order requires judges and court staff to still wear masks when working in jails or correctional facilities. Anyone who wants to wear a mask still can, as well.
Despite the ease in some restrictions, the court system plans to continue the practice of remote proceedings in some cases due to their popularity and improved access to court proceedings.