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NM courts to postpone most civil jury trials

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was corrected to reflect that courts around the state have been asked to postpone most civil jury trials, not all civil trials.

New Mexico courts will remain open despite the COVID-19 threat, but court officials are taking steps they hope will minimize health risks, including asking judges to postpone civil jury trials that have not yet started except in “exceptional” circumstances, and suspending out-of-state work travel for judges and judicial employees.

Criminal proceedings will continue, but the courts will limit the number of inmates that may be transported from jails to courthouses for hearings, the Administrative Office of the Courts announced in a news release late Wednesday. And judges are being asked to conduct proceedings in a way that minimizes contact among people in the courtroom, which includes the use of telephones and technology.

Jurors who have traveled to areas with high concentrations of confirmed coronavirus cases are being asked to contact their court before reporting for jury duty. And jurors who are ill will be released immediately and sent home.

“The judiciary’s responsibility to ensure constitutional protections are available to those who need them has been especially important during difficult times in our history,” Chief Justice Judith K. Nakamura said in the release. “We are working closely with state and local governments, and taking steps to ensure that courthouses are safe for jurors, litigants, lawyers, judicial employees, judges and all members of the public.”

She said courts will carefully monitor developments related to the coronavirus and take additional steps as necessary to minimize public health risks.

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