Federal civil and criminal trials in Hawaii will be further delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The U.S. District Court in Hawaii issued orders Thursday postponing trials scheduled to start before June 15 and extending the closure of the federal courthouse to the public until then.

The measures were necessary given the “ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and public health emergency, including the continued need to protect the public, court employees, and counsel from being exposed,” the court said in one of the orders.

However, hearings are still taking place over the phone, the order said, with the exception of non-essential criminal matters, which will be postponed until after June 15. Parties in cases can still process documents through the electronic system.

All state civil, criminal and family court trials will also be postponed until after May 29 or the end of Hawaii Gov. David Ige’s state of emergency, whichever comes first.

Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald said in an order Friday that the judiciary must continue to protect the health and safety of court personnel and the public.

Trials have been suspended since mid-March to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Recktenwald also ordered the creation of a new committee to help accelerate the courts’ ability to conduct court proceedings remotely.

“We recognize the importance of addressing as many cases as possible, either by teleconferencing or videoconferencing,” the Chief Justice said.

The committee will also address the challenges the courts may face when they return to full operation, he added.

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