TRIALS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

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As with most things during the pandemic, the way various courts are handling trials is changeable, unpredictable, and inconsistent.

Some courts are conducting trials in which every participant, including the judge, witnesses, parties, jurors, and counsel are required to wear a mask at all times. Others are building plexiglass shields for the judge's bench and the witness box, so those participants can remove their masks while speaking.

Because of social distancing requirements, some courts are limiting the number of lawyers and/or party representatives who can be in the courtroom at any one time, with the rest of each team observing via remote from a room down the hall. Nearly all are spreading the masked jurors around the courtroom, rather than seating them only in the jury box.

Some judges are asking lawyers to agree to fewer peremptory challenges, or even to a smaller jury.

One solution that is growing in popularity and  is the fully remote online trial. Some courts are also conducting "hybrid" trials, with some aspects of trial, such as jury selection, being done online, while the trial itself is done in person, with mask and social-distancing protocols in place.

Deciding whether to move for a continuance, pursue online options, or forge ahead in this masked environment depends on many things, and, unfortunately, there is not one right answer for every case.

Since the courts shut down in March of 2020, we have been involved in studying how these measures will tend to impact a case. We would be happy to talk with you about what is happening in your area, and what considerations you should think about before deciding whether to move ahead, move online, or move for a continuance.

For more information, resources, and news, check out The Online Courtroom Project: