Conducting jury trials amid the COVID-19 pandemic has so far proved to be extremely difficult. Even day to day operations at courts have been severely limited amid this crisis. The Michigan Supreme Court has limited access to all state courts and given the judges more authority to handle court proceedings remotely. Wayne County Circuit Court has already suspended jury service through mid-August through emergency orders related to the pandemic. The state of Michigan is reporting nearly 3,000 deaths due to COVID-19 as of this writing.
Details Surrounding Delay Of Jury Trials
Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack had previously issued a memo on March 11, 2020 to all state trial courts recommending adjournments. The aim of that memo was to adjourn all jury trials, whether they were civil or criminal unless there was some special reason in a specific case such as a defendant being held in custody for an extended amount of time awaiting trial. This memo coincided with Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer State of Emergency declaration due to the coronavirus outbreak. That recommendation to adjourn all trials has continued to the present where the Michigan Supreme Court has now delayed all jury trials until at least June 22, 2020. McCormack stated that emergency action to protect the public takes precedence over day to day operations inside state courtrooms. The Court is also looking into ways to be able to handle proceedings remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, having already used Zoom conferencing to hear oral arguments on four different cases over the course of two separate court dates. The justices participated in the oral argument via Zoom, while the attorneys for all parties had also agreed to argue their cases using Zoom.
Remote Options For Court
The State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) is the administrative arm of the Michigan Supreme Court. They are looking to launch test projects to help test and evaluate new jury procedures that can conform to social distancing protocols while also protecting both statutory and constitutional rights of the parties involved. Once these test projects are complete, the SCAO will then assess the information gained and then give recommendations to courts as how to conduct jury trials in the safest manner possible. It is believed that no judge in the United States has ever presided over a remote jury trial. These test projects will help the SCAO determine what a remote jury trial actually is in practice. It looks as if remote jury trials are a legitimate option going forward once the logistics and rules are figured out. The first phase of the test project will involve a mock trial to help develop how things like voir dire, exhibits, witnesses, and deliberations are handled. During the second phase of the test project, the SCAO will partner with different trial courts to actually conduct remote jury trials with these new practices in place. After these phases are completed, the SCAO will then share the resulting recommendations with the rest of the trial courts. This test project is definitely a big change and step for a profession that is so steeped in tradition as law tends to be.
Any Further Questions?
If you are expected to be in court, it is your responsibility to find out if your court date is still valid or if it was changed. If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime or being investigated for one, then it is important to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. At Grabel & Associates, our attorneys have over 100 years of combined experience in successfully defending criminal cases all over the state of Michigan. This experience extends not only to adult cases, but also to juvenile charges. We are not a general practice firm. We are a team of criminal defense attorneys; it’s all we do. We offer a FREE consultation to anyone with questions relating to a possible or existing criminal charge against them or a loved one. Feel free to contact us on our 24/7 defense line at 1-800-342-7896. You can also contact us online or come visit us at one of our three statewide locations. We can also come to you.