West Virginia Law Review Online


This Article aims to consider the immediate impacts of the novel coronavirus on criminal defendants’ access to speedy trials by jury. In particular, it aims to examine whether court closures and delays could affect the substantive rights of criminal defendants—and particularly pretrial detainees—to a speedy and public trial by jury. To date, very little scholarship has considered this question. Yet the ideal of a speedy trial by jury is deeply embedded in our Constitution and our judicial system, and the potential for a pandemic to limit or negate that right should ring scholastic and judicial alarm bells.

This analysis proceeds in three parts. Part I surveys the rapidly changing responses by a sample of federal district courts across the country to the coronavirus outbreak. Part II examines the constitutional and statutory authority that may conflict with the judiciary’s attempt to avoid exposure to the virus altogether. Finally, Part III concludes by suggesting that courts ought to maintain the right to delay proceedings and manage their dockets in confronting the imminent threat of the novel coronavirus, but that this control is subject to an upper (and fact-specific) constitutional bound beyond which courts cannot delay criminal jury trials.



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