Jury trials resume at Norfolk Circuit Court

Norfolk

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The Norfolk Circuit Court has been approved to resume jury trials, effective this Monday.

The court’s plan to resume jury trials was one of only five plans in the commonwealth approved by the Virginia Supreme Court.

The first jury trial will be held on Monday, Sept. 21.

The Virginia Supreme Court suspended all jury trials in the commonwealth due to the COVID-19 pandemic on May 18.  The Norfolk Circuit Court, along with most courts in Virginia, stopped all jury trials beginning in mid-March, following Gov. Ralph Northam’s Declaration of a State of Emergency.  

Plans for Norfolk’s jury trial resumption include:

  • All jurors must wear a face covering and stay 6 feet apart
  • Jurors will be scheduled to arrive in groups of 30 every two hours
  • Jurors will wait in separate areas in groups of no more than 15
  • Jurors will be given regular breaks for hand washing

In addition, jurors will sit 6 feet apart in renovated jury “boxes” in the courtroom.  Jurors will also deliberate cases in the courtroom versus the smaller jury deliberation rooms. All high-touch surfaces will be cleaned frequently. Individuals at high risk for COVID-19 will be instructed how to request excusal or deferral.

“We’re very, very determined to make sure that sure that this is a safe experience for the jurors,” said Chief Judge Mary Jane Hall. “We are also very excited that we are able to get the wheels of justice moving again.”

Hall said the court worked with the City of Norfolk, the Norfolk Health Department and even architects to create a new layout for the jury process.

The jury selection process is different too. 

“If you get a summons, you’ll be instructed to call to find out when your reporting time is,” Hall said. “We’re only going to seat jurors in groups of 15 in separate parts of the building.”

The pandemic led to a significant backlog of cases, delaying the right to a speedy trial for many. Hall hopes the public will embrace their civic duty, especially now.

“Let me just implore you to consider how important it is for the people who are waiting for their day of justice, for their day in court,” she said.

We’re told criminal cases will get first priority and jury trials for civil cases will start back up in November. 

If you were summoned to appear for jury duty, you can review the court’s plan here.


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