Mark Twain once said: “Trial by jury is the palladium of our liberties. I do not know what a palladium is, but I am sure it is a good thing!” If Mr. Twain were alive today, he wouldn’t be quite so sure that jury trials conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic are really such a good
Just a few months ago, the idea of a virtual jury trial probably seemed inconceivable to most judges and lawyers. Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic shuttering courthouses throughout the nation and most in-person proceedings suspended, many judges and attorneys are left wondering when and how civil jury trials will be able to safely resume. We suspect that most prospective jurors will not be enthralled with the idea of sitting shoulder to shoulder in a jury box while the outbreak is still raging. As litigators and the courts become comfortable with Zoom and other videoconferencing tools, it is apparent that we have the technology to hold virtual trials – the questions is should we?
The prospect of remote jury trials raises a host of serious issues ranging from how to overcome the constitutional hurdles to ensuring that witnesses, parties and jurors have access to high-speed internet so that they can participate in the first place. Some potential solutions for accessibility concerns are having pre-wired government offices for those who lack access or distributing common technology (such as an iPad, with a cellular connection). In addition to technology access, there will also be questions of whether a potential juror has access to a room where they can be alone and deliberate in private. …
Continue Reading Will Virtual Jury Trials Be Part of the “New Normal” Ushered in by the COVID-19 Pandemic?