Jay County Courthouse has a problem.

There are too many trials scheduled.

Jury trials were impossible at the height of the coronavirus pandemic shutdown. Now all the trials that had to be rescheduled are catching up, and logistically all of the cases scheduled cannot be decided by jury by the end of the year, Jay Superior Court Judge Max Ludy said.

“I’m not pushing for jury trials this year,” said Ludy, who is telling Jay County prosecutors to only take a case to trial if they absolutely have to until presumably Gail Dues, who is running unopposed in the general election for Ludy’s seat, takes over the court next year.

The delay in trials has forced both Jay Superior and Circuit courts to schedule two to three trials on the same day in some cases. That way, if one of the cases is postponed, canceled or settled early, the other can be held and the trial date is not wasted.

Ludy, who lost to Dues in the Republican primary in June, said if all trials scheduled were to happen, he would have two to three a week.

With a limited jury pool and coronavirus concerns on top of the factor of time, so many trials a week would be impossible.

“I don’t want to get anyone sick,” said Ludy, recognizing the risks with gathering that many jurors, workers and attendees in a courtroom at one time in the midst of a viral pandemic.

The vast majority of cases assigned to Ludy’s court do not go to trial. In general, he only hears criminal cases involving misdemeanor or Level 6 felony charges. Trials by jury are only guaranteed for felony cases, Ludy said, and many of those are settled through a plea agreement, bypassing a trial.

Jury trials are more common in Judge Brian Hutchison’s Jay Circuit Court, in which there are plenty.

Unlike Ludy, Hutchison has held a jury trial since the pandemic began. Part of the jury selection process was carried out in the courthouse’s foyer so potential jurors did not have to congregate close together in his courtroom.

Sixteen trials, most of them drug related, are scheduled in Hutchison’s court through the rest of the year with six “almost guaranteed” to happen, he said. In a typical autumn, he hears four to five trials, he said.

One such trial scheduled in his court is that of Shelby N. Hiestand, who was charged with the Jan. 12 murder of Shea Briar. Her trial is expected to last four days beginning Nov. 16.

Trials for Esther J. Stephen and Hannah Knapke, who are also charged with murdering Briar, were originally scheduled for this year but have since been pushed back to Jan. 11 and Feb. 21, respectively.

A two-day jury trial for Ryan A. Markle, who was charged with neglect of a dependent, a Level 1 felony, after the death of his 3-month-old son Hayden Markle, was originally scheduled for Oct. 12 but was later rescheduled for Jan. 4.

Jennifer Young, Hayden Markle’s mother, was also charged with neglect of a dependent, a Level 1 felony. She had a jury trial scheduled for Nov. 12 but that was canceled without an immediate makeup date. She has a scheduling hearing slated for Oct. 13.