COVID-19 surge delays trials for Summit County district court | SummitDaily.com
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COVID-19 surge delays trials for Summit County district court

Kelli Duncan
Vail Daily
The Summit County Justice Center is pictured in Breckenridge. Colorado’s 5th Judicial District, which serves Summit County, has suspended all jury trials through Jan. 28 due to the current surge in COVID-19 cases.
Summit Daily News archive

EAGLE — Colorado’s 5th Judicial District, which serves Summit County, has suspended all jury trials through Jan. 28 due to the current surge in COVID-19 cases throughout the region.

The suspension was implemented this week through an order from Chief Judge Paul R. Dunkelman of the 5th Judicial District. It applies to all jury trials scheduled for the month of January in Clear Creek, Eagle, Lake and Summit counties.

“It has been determined that public health and safety dictate avoiding the gathering of large groups of prospective jurors and that a temporary suspension of jury trials is necessary,” the order reads. “This determination will be continually monitored and addressed as additional data, information and recommendations are available.”



Dunkelman cited data from state and county public health departments showing the severity of the latest surge in COVID-19 cases, which has reached an unprecedented pace with the new omicron variant.

At the time the order was issued Monday, Jan. 3, Summit County’s one-week cumulative incidence rate was 3,453 cases per 100,000 residents, and the percentage of COVID-19 tests that returned positive was 39%. Both figures had dropped slightly by Friday, Jan. 7, to a one-week cumulative incidence rate of 3,306 and a positivity rate of 36.6%.



Also on Monday, neighboring Eagle County reported a one-week cumulative incidence rate of 2,116 cases, and the percentage of COVID-19 tests that returned positive had reached 39.5%. The county’s incidence rate had dropped to 1,616 cases as of Thursday afternoon, but the test positivity rate remained at 39%, according to Eagle County Public Health.

Both counties are in the “severe risk” level for COVID-19 spread as outlined by the state.

Clear Creek and Lake counties were at the “high risk” level, and the “severe risk” level, respectively, as of Monday.

A similar suspension of jury trials was implemented in fall 2020 in an order issued by Judge Mark Thompson, who was in the role of 5th Judicial District chief judge at the time. The order was issued at the end of October 2020 and was extended in November.

This most recent suspension will require the rescheduling of January jury trials. If last year’s suspension is any indication, the move is likely to push back other trials set for late winter and early spring, as well.

Trial delays in 2020 led one defendant to request that his charges be dismissed on the grounds that his right to a speedy trial had been violated when his trial was pushed back. Eagle County District Court Judge Reed Owens denied the motion, and the matter went all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court, which upheld Owens’ ruling.

The suspension issued by Dunkelman referenced guidance from public health agencies as well as an updated order from Chief Justice Brian D. Boatright of the Colorado Supreme Court, which was issued after the court made multiple rulings regarding COVID-19-related trial suspensions.

The 5th Judicial District’s order may be “rescinded, modified or extended” based on trends in regional public health data, input from judges and other stakeholders and “all other circumstances impacting court operations,” according to Dunkelman’s order.


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