Courtrooms and the time of COVID-19 - How will we keep jurors safe?

June 04, 2020, Kitchener, Ontario

Posted by: Robert Deutschmann, Personal Injury Lawyer

Icra Iflas Piled BookAs courts re-open in America and elsewhere the concern with keeping jurors safe has become a real issue that we will also be dealing with. Some courts have installed ‘sneeze barriers’, others are requiring face masks be worn. Juries though remain a problem.

How do we fit jurors into their box and keep them safe? How/where do they go when they aren’t in court rooms? Placing jurors into the gallery is an option but it may place them too close to lawyers and leave them privy to private conversations. Keeping jurors 2 m apart will be very challenging, and their safety must be paramount in the considerations.

Public hearings are being discouraged in many places where the courts are open to reduce the chances of infection. We’ve seen here in Ontario the incredible rise of the use of technology, video conferencing and phone calls replacing in person meetings and submissions. In Ontario court backlogs which were already huge, are expected to be even greater. Using technology may speed up the hearing of straight forward cases, however complex criminal trials, trials by jury, and other complex trials will remain in person events and distancing requirements may well slow down those hearings even more.

Deep cleaning of courtrooms, meeting rooms, waiting areas and the installation of hand sanitizing stations is all expected to occur. In some courts in Arizona they have begun to do temperature checks and rechecks. Some courts are using vibrating beepers to alert visitors of when they can enter the courtrooms, other are simply limiting attendance of visitors to galleries.

What happens if people key to the trial are deemed to be too risky health wise to admit. How will that impact the process? Seasonal allergy symptoms may preclude appearances of judges or lawyers. Will they be grounds for excluding jurors? How can we determine who is really ill at cursory screenings?

It will be interesting to see how the process unfolds in Ontario. We have the privilege of watching other jurisdictions tackle the problem first and learning from them.


Posted under Accident Benefit News, COVID

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Deutschmann Law serves South-Western Ontario with offices in Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, Woodstock, Brantford, Stratford and Ayr. The law practice of Robert Deutschmann focuses almost exclusively in personal injury and disability insurance matters. For more information, please visit or call us toll-free at 1-866-414-4878.

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