San Juan County Jury Selections, Trials Resume

Posted March 21, 2021 at 5:00 am by

From San Juan County

The San Juan Coun­ty Supe­ri­or Court and Dis­trict Court are once again resum­ing jury tri­als, after post­pon­ing tri­als in Novem­ber of 2020 due to a surge in COVID-19 cases.

Thanks to trans­mis­sion rates falling region­al­ly and statewide, and tech­no­log­i­cal and phys­i­cal updates to the court­rooms to improve safe­ty mea­sures, both courts are ready for jury tri­als to resume and are send­ing out jury summonses.

On March 18, 2020, the Wash­ing­ton State Supreme Court sus­pend­ed all civ­il and crim­i­nal jury tri­als as a result of COVID-19.

Tri­al courts were per­mit­ted to resume jury tri­als in July of 2020, and since then, each juris­dic­tion has had to deter­mine when it is safe to hold tri­als based on local conditions.

Because jury tri­als are a cor­ner­stone of our democ­ra­cy and a con­sti­tu­tion­al right, courts across the state have been work­ing to hold tri­als through­out the pan­dem­ic, with paus­es and post­pone­ments when local health guid­ance sug­gests it is unsafe to proceed.

In San Juan Coun­ty, tri­als were post­poned in Novem­ber as the region, and San Juan Coun­ty expe­ri­enced hol­i­day surges in trans­mis­sion rates.

Local COVID-19 pub­lic health guid­ance sup­port­ed post­pon­ing jury tri­als through Feb­ru­ary 2021. How­ev­er, that guid­ance now indi­cates that it is safe to resume jury trials—with sub­stan­tial health and safe­ty pro­to­cols in place.

The courts are also work­ing on mak­ing it eas­i­er for the pub­lic to watch tri­als remote­ly so that few­er peo­ple would need to come into the court­room phys­i­cal­ly to watch the proceeding.

“We have worked with our local health offi­cials to deter­mine when to start jury tri­als again,” said Dis­trict Court Judge Car­olyn Jew­ett. “We know that con­di­tions could change quick­ly, espe­cial­ly with new coro­n­avirus vari­ants spread­ing in Wash­ing­ton, and we’re watch­ing the num­bers close­ly. But with changes to our facil­i­ties, social dis­tanc­ing pre­cau­tions, and small­er groups of jurors, we feel con­fi­dent in our safe­ty mea­sures. When you com­bine that with low­er trans­mis­sion rates, the time is right to bring jurors back to the courthouse.”

Both courts are there­fore send­ing out jury sum­mons. Courts must send out sum­mons to poten­tial jurors sev­er­al weeks before a poten­tial tri­al date. Jurors must respond to the sum­mons and turn in their response to the court with­in a week of receiv­ing the sum­mons. This lets the court and par­ties know how many poten­tial jurors will actu­al­ly show up to the cour­t­house on the day of the trial.

“We know many mem­bers of our com­mu­ni­ty have not yet been vac­ci­nat­ed, so our jury tri­al plan is designed to pro­tect every­one in the court­room,” said Supe­ri­or Court Judge Kathryn Lor­ing. “How­ev­er, we also know some indi­vid­u­als are at a high­er risk of com­pli­ca­tions of COVID-19 with­out a vac­cine. If you fall into one of these high-risk cat­e­gories, you can request your ser­vice to be resched­uled up to four months lat­er. This process will be explained in a let­ter with your summons.”

Jury ser­vice is a vital civic duty, and the jurors are an inte­gral part of the process.

If you have any ques­tions, the courts want to know what your con­cerns are so we can make the process as safe as pos­si­ble. You can send your ques­tions to jurymanager@sanjuanco.com, or call the Jury Infor­ma­tion Hot­line at 360–378-9407.

 

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Categories: Government

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