This month on October 5th, Maryland resumed jury trials, hoping to bring some sense of normalcy to this tumultuous and unprecedented year. However, although some courts have reopened, it is important to note that there have been many procedural changes that vary by county. Here, the attorneys at Eccleston & Wolf discuss the changes to in-person proceedings in Maryland courts, and how this will impact legal professionals and those selected for jury duty throughout the end of this year.
COVID-19 Screenings & Additional Precautions Will Be Put in Place
Like the majority of other businesses, Maryland courts will have additional screening and protective procedures in place to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. To enter a state courthouse, visitors must answer multiple COVID-19 screening questions, have their temperature taken and maintain social distancing within the facility. Additionally, jurors will likely not be asked to sit in a crowded space with other individuals summoned for jury duty. Instead, they may be asked to move to a recreational area, such as a volunteer fire house or school gymnasium. Since Maryland jury trials have been suspended since March of this year, judges, clerks and administrators collaborated to create a set of safety guidelines to ensure that all parties would be kept as safe as possible, while providing an efficient strategy to help courts resume some of their normal processes.
Court & Jury Procedures Will Vary Throughout Jurisdictions
Since circuit courts differ in size and layout, protocols surrounding court proceedings will be left up to the leadership of that jurisdiction, although COVID-19 screening questions, masks and temperature checks will be required for all. The varying protocols come about when enforcing social distancing during “voir dire,” the process by which judges pose questions to impanel a jury. More populated counties, such as Harford, Montgomery and Howard will utilize technology during their jury selection process, using remote options to their advantage. Additionally, other counties have chosen adjusted forms of in-person voir dire, utilizing libraries, community colleges and gymnasiums for their socially-distanced jury selection. Finally, it is important to note that more people may be called for jury duty in the coming months, as state and county officials are expecting more people to decline service due to safety concerns. While this may seem unusual, individuals and counties are doing their best to establish safe protocols while trying to move forward with jury trials across the State of Maryland.
Seek Legal Assistance with Maryland Attorneys at Eccleston & Wolf
Eccleston & Wolf has extensive experience defending individuals and companies in the Maryland, D.C. and Virginia areas through a strategic approach, consistent communication and individualized planning. We understand that during this time, court proceedings can be confusing and often overwhelming for many individuals. If you or someone you know is seeking legal assistance, consider utilizing the many resources that our qualified team at Eccleston & Wolf has to offer. To learn how our team can assist you, and to stay up-to-date on news surrounding Maryland court proceedings, contact our office today.