BOSTON (WWLP) – The state announced that jury trials will begin again next month in Massachusetts amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Jury trials and most in-person court matters were brought to a halt back in March due to the pandemic. On Friday, the state’s Supreme Judicial Court said Phase 1 of the gradual resumption of jury trials that were originally set to begin on or after October 23 have been extended to November 9.
Jurors summoned for the weeks of October 26 and November 2 have been canceled.
“We continue to review building systems to minimize any risk to jurors, court users, and court staff,” said Chief Justice Carey. “We are following CDC guidance in terms of occupancy levels and want to take a few more weeks to prepare. This is a complicated process, given the coordination required.”
22News spoke with James Winston who is a Northampton Attorney. He said there have been some challenges within the courts, but nothing too major.
“In the probate and family court where there are no trials by jury they have been able to keep up very well,” said Winston. “There is some backup but cases are going through very well. Certain types of cases like evidentiary hearings they are trying to do more of those now in person.”
Courts have been working toward the gradual resumption of jury trials. Trial Court Chief Justice Paula Carey said plans call for conducting a limited number of trials, with six-person juries, in a designated number of courthouses.
Phase 1 will consist of a limited number of six-person jury trials that will be conducted in person. This cuts the normal 12-person jury in half.
These jury trials will resume in a select number of locations, with no more than one trial at a time conducted at each courthouse. The SJC has not announced these locations just yet, but say they will have to be approved by the Chief Justice of the applicable Trial Court department, in consultation with the Chief Justice of the Trial Court.
The SJC anticipates that Phase 2 of the will begin in February 2021. Things could change if there are significant changes in the rate of COVID-19 transmission in Massachusetts.