Gavel generic MGN file

(Image Courtesy: MGN Online)

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts courts will move closer to pre-pandemic operations later this month under two updated orders released Thursday by the Supreme Judicial Court.

The first order removes occupancy limits and physical distancing requirements in courthouses, but requires everyone, whether fully vaccinated or not, to continue to wear a face covering.

The second order reopens courthouses for in-person business and trials.

It ends COVID-19-related limitations or restrictions on where and how jury trials are conducted, the SJC said.

Because courts continue to work through the backlog of trials caused by the pandemic, certain cases that typically would be heard by 12-person juries, such as Superior and Housing Court civil cases, will continue to be heard by six-person juries.

Priority will to be given to trials in cases where a defendant is in custody. Certain proceedings may still be conducted virtually.

Both orders take effect July 12.

“We are truly encouraged by the progress in the Commonwealth with respect to COVID-19, and hope it will continue and allow courts to gradually return to normal," Chief Justice Kimberly Budd said in a statement. “At the same time, we hope to take some of the lessons learned during the pandemic and apply them going forward, particularly when it comes to conducting certain proceedings virtually.”

Due to juror notice requirements, jurors will not be available for trials in some locations until Sept. 7.

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