Apparently, the virus isn’t too concerned about folks getting their day in court. The Indiana Supreme recently ordered suspending jury trials statewide until March 1, citing “the need for drastic measures as COVID-19 continues to surge.”
Indiana joins other state and federal courts suspending jury trials over the past months as a result of spikes in Covid-19 infections. Courts in several states, including New York, Washington, Texas, Connecticut, Missouri, Florida, Arizona, Ohio and Virginia, have all suspended jury trials.
“In-person jury trials pose an exceptional risk to everyone involved—even if every precaution is taken. We have hope that 2021 will bring improved conditions,” Chief Justice Loretta Rush said in written remarks. “But hoping is not enough. There is more we must do, and we must act now.”
Infections related to juries have already been reported in other states.
In the Eastern District of Texas, at least 13 people involved in a civil jury trial tested positive for Covid-19, including two jurors and three staff members, Clerk of Court David O’Toole said. The court declared a mistrial and postponed jury proceedings in that courthouse through December, he said.
The Eastern District of Arkansas also suspended four jury trials in recent months after a juror either tested positive or was exposed. In a Nov. 6 order suspending jury trials, Chief Judge D.P. Marshall said almost 100 people had requested to be excused from jury duty in October and November for virus-related reasons.
To date, Indiana has reported 598,313 cases of the virus and 9,529 deaths. The US virus death toll eclipsed 400,000, as compiled by Johns Hopkins University, and is nearly equal to the number of Americans killed in World War II. And “experts” predict that the virus isn’t finished with us. Even with the arrival of vaccines touted as vanquishing the virus, a widely cited model by the University of Washington projects the death toll could reach 567,000 by May 1st.
So, while closing courtrooms is seriously inconvenient and creates a greater backlog of cases, it makes sense for public health reasons. Some legal experts warn the delays could create an overwhelming backlog of cases and have legal ramifications. The virus is aggravating what is an already strained system. Courts all over the state are grappling with a backlog of cases delayed by previous closures.
With each court setting its own pandemic procedures, the result is a patchwork of pandemic related rules. Some judges are more accepting of remote appearances and procedures. Rest assured, our lawyers are still fiercely advocating for our clients. Here at Carl Brizzi LAW, our Indiana civil litigators are doing as many phone conferences as possible to reduce the number of people physically going to court. As far as new clients are concerned, we remain flexible. We are happy to meet in person under the COVID protocols, or we are set up to use video conferencing. It’s up to you…the client.