Once again, federal jury trials are banned in the District of New Jersey. On Dec. 29, 2021, after several months of holding a limited number of trials, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey entered another in a series of COVID-19 Standing Orders cancelling all scheduled jury trials. As a result, if you or someone you love falls in the unfortunate class of individuals accused of a federal crime in New Jersey—people who often are indigent, often a minority, often denied bail, and often incarcerated in a county jail—you are out of luck. Given the federal courts’ primary role as guardian of constitutional rights, reconsideration is warranted.

It is not the role of the federal courts to set public health policy. Yet, the district court’s COVID-19 Standing Orders have, over the past two years, repeatedly exceeded the recommendations of public health authorities. Thus, there is no governmental order—other than the district court’s own Standing Order—that mandates the closure of the federal courts. Neither the New Jersey Department of Health nor the Centers for Disease Control have banned gatherings equivalent in size to the number of people who attend the typical criminal jury trial. To the contrary, on Dec. 29, 2021, the very same day that federal trials in the District of New Jersey were suspended, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, recommended that the proper response to the Omicron surge was for unvaccinated children and adults to get vaccinated. He did not recommend shutting down (or limiting access to) the federal courts.