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Jury duty service resumes in San Diego courts

Posted at 11:49 AM, Oct 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-09 14:49:46-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Jury duty service in San Diego County resumed Friday after a lengthy stoppage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Courtrooms across San Diego County shut down about seven months ago amid state-mandated restrictions. Now, jurors are able to report once again, with a slew of health and safety precautions in place.

Because of the virus, courts have had to change the way they operate, and some lawyers believe this will also affect the process of picking a fair jury.

Many aspects of the courts have changed, from added safety precautions to transitioning to virtual court.

Prior to the pandemic, there were usually 350-400 people that are summoned to serve as jurors at the Central Courthouse in downtown San Diego. Now, that number has been reduced to 18%-20% of the usual capacity to allow for proper social distancing.

Just as before, jurors do have the option to delay their service based on a number of factors including financial reasons, being a caretaker, or having a physical or mental condition.

Defense attorney Jan Ronis told ABC 10News, “The kinds of options that were previously available now have new options, in respect to vulnerable conditions and age groups, things of that nature … it’s a whole new world.”

Ronis said he believes COVID-19 concerns could impact the jury pool that’s available, with more people opting to postpone their service.

“A jury of your peers, which represents a cross-section of society, racially, ethnic, gender-wise, diversify, as far as age and demographic, these are hugely important,” said Ronis.

It’s just one of the main challenges the courts will have to deal with as they’re already facing a backlog of cases.

Ronis added, “Everyone’s been in limbo; people need to get things resolved, criminal and civil litigants and family courts, things of that nature. It’s really created a horrific situation for so many people.”

Jurors that have been called in to report will do so next Tuesday, which is when jury trials are scheduled to begin.

Court officials say of the jurors that were summoned this week, nearly 40% have either postponed their service or have been excused from jury duty.