After months of being closed, courts across the nation are trying to figure out the best way to move forward during the COVID-19 pandemic. Jury trials, in particular, are the focus of so many judicial districts, including our Federal Courts. Judge Karen K. Caldwell of the U.S. District Court of Eastern Kentucky likened the situation to “building an airplane while you’re flying it,” according to an August 27, 2020 article published on the Administrative Office of the U.S. Court website.
Judge Caldwell and many of her judicial colleagues are trying to rebuild our trial system fairly and safely, for all parties involved. Doing so requires new protocols for all stages of jury litigation, from the voir dire process of selecting a panel of jurors to provide testimony and exhibits through deliberation and verdict.
The restructuring of our jury trial system is a work in progress. Judge Caldwell presided over an eight-week criminal trial in April 2020. As she stated:
“There are so many variables; you could never come up with a plan that fits for everyone. But we trial judges are very adapt and modify a plan on short notice. This is just another one of those circumstances, although on steroids.”
“There is no pandemic exception in the Constitution, and the Constitution has stood the test of time for more than 230 years.”
Not all national courts are progressing at the same pace. Many courts located in jurisdictions with a higher number of COVID-19 cases are slower to resume trials. As stated in the article mentioned above, courts located in Colorado, Arizona, and Northern Georgia have continued their trials until the fall of 2020. However, the Federal Courts located in the Southern District of Florida has entered an order further delaying jury trials until 2021.
For more information regarding Judge Caldwell’s efforts to preside over a jury trial in the mix of a COVID-19 pandemic, please read her June 4, 2020 guide: “Conducting Jury Trials and Conveying Grand Juries During the Pandemic.”
Advocate Capital, Inc. is proud of the steps taken by members of our judicial colleagues to resume our national jury trials safely and fairly for all members of our society.
Executive Client Manager
Photo Credit: Andrey Prilytskii, 123rf.com