Watergate Jury by John Hart. The original is in my office.
Yesterday I wrote about the post-pandemic law firm, as well as testimony and court conferences. Today I’m switching to legal proceedings.
On Monday, the New York Chief Judge issued a statement with lots of good news, including the fact that experimental trials have begun. In the courts outside of New York City, 70 criminal and civil trials are now planned and many have been completed.
And the trials are slated to begin in New York City next week. According to CJ DiFiore:
In New York City, we are currently planning to resume civil jury trials next week, although we are carefully monitoring COVID metrics in various areas of the city and have not yet made final decisions on the number or location of these initial trials. However, you can rest assured that we are making responsible decisions based on the latest public health data and guidelines and that no jury, attorney, or witness or employee will be asked to report to our courthouses unless we are confident in our ability to protect their health and safety. And every process that takes place is conducted in a building that operates with all security protocols implemented, tested and refined to protect the hundreds of jurors, attorneys, witnesses and staff who have already safely participated in our jury -Pilot in the past few weeks.
Of course, as someone who makes a good living in the courtroom, I am glad that the trials are resuming. Because only with a jury in the box will an insurance company be forced to come to the table in good faith to negotiate.
But. And you knew there had to be a “but”, didn’t you?
What will these jurors look like when performing amid a pandemic? Will they be representative of the general population so that litigants have a jury of peers?
The entire jury pool is most likely skewed.
We can start with those who are most susceptible to COVID-19: the elderly. What percentage of our seniors / retirees who would normally appear for their civic duty will say, “No way, I won’t.” Due to virus. That population will almost certainly decrease.
How about people with respiratory diseases? You can be sure that more of them will stay at home than would normally show up. And many of them will have conditions made worse by poor health care.
Minorities? Black populations have been particularly hard hit, and it would be reasonable to assume that fewer percent would want to get within the confines of a courthouse, regardless of how safe the judiciary considers it safe. Because potential jurors don’t really know what the state of the country will be like until they get there.
Local transport users? They are less likely to get to the courthouse, while those who can afford private transportation are more likely.
And what about those who think the virus isn’t a big deal? These generally conservative populations are more likely to come to the courthouse to serve.
In summary, the New York City jury pool is now likely to decrease the number of seniors, people with breathing problems, blacks and poor people, and conversely, it is more likely to include young, white and conservative people.
I would like to say that I have a solution to this problem. Not me.
But I am open to suggestions. And I bet the judiciary will be there too, once they recognize the problem.