“Justice delayed is justice denied”.
Or so it has been repeatedly said.
All the same, a decision to postpone jury trials in Clark County courts makes good sense in terms of what is going on with local virus infection and hospitalization rates. See, The Columbian, “Clark County Court Suspends Jury Trials due to COVID-19 Spike”, January 7, 2022.
The omicron variant coupled with holiday get-togethers have significantly impacted the rate of COVID-19 infections. The saga is ongoing, including in Clark County.
Per another front page Columbian newspaper article also published on January 7, 2022, the number of persons in Clark County still in their isolation period with COVID-19 has doubled to 3,294 this week up from 1,601 last week. From other headlines and news sources, this is going on in Portland, around our nation, and in much of the rest of the world.
And although the omicron variant is reportedly less lethal than its immediate predecessor (the Delta variant), this form of virus does continue to kill, and not just old and “already sick” people. According to an article in the January 7, 2022 Columbian newspaper, of the 11 new deaths attributed to COVID-19 reported the previous week in Clark County, one man was in his 30s, one woman was in her 50s, five men were in their 60s, three men were in their 70s, and one person was older than 80. The article doesn't list which if any of those were “breakthrough” cases, versus unvaccinated people. But we know from earlier local news stories that deaths are occasionally occurring with vaccinated folks too, albeit thankfully, only infrequently.
The pressure on our healthcare system remains a concern, too, more than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic. Local hospitals, for example, already at 90% of capacity, are expected to come under strain immediately, post-holidays.
So it doesn't surprise me that the courts are again temporarily shutting down jury trials – at least until we get past this post-holiday surge.
Hopefully these worsening statistics will level off in a month or two and then ease back. If I understand it correctly, that's what omicron did in South Africa, where it was first identified, before landing here in the United States.
In any event, prudence on the part of our local judges in the governance of our Clark County courts over the next few weeks is wise. We can all get back to the job of seeking justice when it is again safer for jurors, judges, litigants, and counsel, to do so.
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