Covid-19, Jury Duty and In-Person Courthouse Visits
July 30, 2020
Like almost every aspect of daily life, the presence of the coronavirus has impacted jury trials. Early in the pandemic, Dallas County canceled all jury trials through early May.
From social distancing measures to masking, questions have arisen about how to keep jurors, defendants, plaintiffs and court employees safe when court proceedings resume. Texas has experimented with jury selection by Zoom in a civil trial, though it has not yet attempted a jury selection by Zoom in a criminal trial.
Texas’ Office of Court Administration is providing judges with the ability to stream and host court proceedings using YouTube and Zoom. In North Texas, the first jury trial by video, a civil trial rather than criminal, was held in Collin County, but such proceedings are not in widespread use yet and certainly not in use for criminal trials. The Collin County proceeding was a one-day civil proceeding with a non-binding verdict over a disputed insurance claim, according to a Reuters report.
Our justice system depends on the opportunity for individuals accused of crimes or facing civil court proceedings such as a disputed personal injury claims to have a fair and impartial proceeding. While teleconferencing can be useful for some proceedings, there’s really no substitute for an in-person courtroom experience.
Jury duty service for Dallas County citizens has been canceled until further notice for both civil and criminal court jury trials due to the outbreak of COVID-19. The courts are open for smaller proceedings. Should you have need to visit our local courthouses, note that precautions are being taken to protect vulnerable populations and limit viral spread.
Vulnerable populations – Individuals over the age of 65 and those with underlying health conditions such as asthma, chronic lung conditions, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity or other immunocompromising health conditions will be accommodated if they need to appear in court, according to the Dallas County courts website.
Prevention Measures – All persons not from the same household are required to maintain social distancing of at least six feet while inside the court building, excluding restrooms. Hand sanitizer stations have been placed throughout the courts buildings so that individuals who must visit the courthouse can sanitize often.
Have a question about your case progression? Contact our office for guidance on how we will handle potential court appearances for your case.