As a personal injury attorney, it has been odd that we have not been inside a courtroom or judge’s chambers for more than six months. Jury trials have been continued due to COVID and hearings are starting to run smoother through Zoom. However, clients may get their jury trial soon and jurors may soon again be subpoenaed for jury duty.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Pasco, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties plan to begin jury trials in October as part of a measured move toward normal — so long as the counties continue to meet health-related benchmarks. In Hillsborough, summonses to pick a grand jury Oct. 5 have been mailed out, with regular criminal trials starting Oct. 19. Pinellas will start sending its invitations Monday to come to the courthouse for trials beginning Oct. 27.
All back to normal? Absolutely not. There are many issues associated with COVID and working through a jury trial. Here are a few:
- Jury panels cannot sit together in crowded room watching the introductory video and cannot sit close together during jury selection.
- Jury trial are open to the public, but seating for spectators is expected to be limited.
- The judge will likely be encased in plexiglass resulting in less connection with the attorneys and jury.
- If jury wear masks, the attorneys cannot see their reaction to testimony and evidence.
- If lawyers are wearing masks, their argument and questioning will be muffled and jurors and witnesses may have a difficult time understanding them.
- If witnesses are wearing masks, can the jurors and attorneys evaluate the credibility of the witness?
- Will potential jurors show? According to the article, before COVID, about 15 percent did not show up for jury duty in Pinellas (that does not include the large number of people who ask to get excused ahead of time for reasons such as being 70 or older). Now, people will likely have health concerns about coming to the courthouse.
I look forward to when we can go into our courtrooms again and move our clients’ cases through the litigation process. I appreciate we have to do it safely and effectively so everyone gets their fair day in court.
Attorneys Matthew Noyes and Lorrie Robinson help families who are impacted by a Tampa Bay car accident. Attorney Matthew Noyes even wrote a book on it – Do You Really Need An Attorney After a Car Accident. If you have questions after a car accident, call Personal Injury Attorney Matthew Noyes at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.