Metro Detroit courts prepare to resume in-person trials with massive backlog of cases

Posted at 5:26 AM, Mar 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-11 05:26:31-05

(WXYZ) — Oakland County is preparing to tackle a massive backlog of court cases by resuming in-person trials, but COVID-19 is causing concerns to the court system.

The county isn't alone. Neighboring counties like Wayne report a huge backlog of criminal cases, a problem since the start of the pandemic. The difference is there is now a vaccine.

"My concern is I'm being ordered into court, for a jury trial and I haven't had an opportunity to sign-up for the vaccine yet," Attorney Pamela Johnson said.

Johnson said that some prosecutors have been vaccinated since they fall into the category of law enforcement, but both hired & court-appointed defense counsels are not currently eligible for vaccines.

The MDHHS and county health department did say they are part of the next group to get the shot.

"We can't wait to get back into the courtroom and advocate for our clients who are presumed innocent, we don't want more delays but we are risking our lives at this point," she said.

In Wayne County, jury trials are set to resume Monday. There's a year-long backlog of cases that begs the question of when defendants will finally have their day in court.

The state court administrator told us a plan is in place.

A memo indicates chief judges across Michigan are compiling names of attorneys who require high priority for vaccinations to be turned over to the MDHHS to approve them.

There are still some concerns about defendants and jurors not being vaccinated, but trials begin as early as March 22.

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