BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The Louisiana Supreme Court is ending the suspension it enacted on jury trials around the state because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The high court announced that trial courts can resume jury trials April 1, if the local courts have determined they can meet safety protocols including social distancing provisions and mask mandates.

“It is imperative that members of the public feel safe in returning to our courthouses for jury duty,” Chief Justice John Weimer said in a statement. “Serving as a juror is one of the most important civic responsibilities to be undertaken by our citizens, and it is the courts’ responsibility to ensure their safety.”

Weimer said the Supreme Court’s decision to end the jury trial moratorium came after consultation with legal and medical experts, including the governor’s top public health adviser, Dr. Joe Kanter with the state health department, and Louisiana’s state epidemiologist, Theresa Sokol.

A backlog of cases has built up because of the delay in jury trials.

“In the past year, courts have used video technology to conduct certain legal proceedings virtually,” Weimer said. “In the current phase, with the introduction of vaccine options, it is prudent to the judicial process that we adopt practices that allow us to serve the public in person.”

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