Sixth Judicial District has resumed jury trials
Posted: Monday, August 24, 2020
Criminal jury trials in the Sixth Judicial District resumed on Monday, August 24th, after having reopening plans approved by the Minnesota Judicial Council. Now, district courts in Carlton, Cook, and Lake counties, and all three court locations in St. Louis County, are able to schedule criminal jury trials.
The approval from the Judicial Council came after the Sixth Judicial District Steering Committee, chaired by Judge Sally Tarnowski, worked with justice and county partners to develop social distancing and trial management plans to ensure safe jury trials. District courts seeking approval to re-start criminal jury trials must submit plans that adhere to the Minnesota Judicial Branch COVID-19 Preparedness Plan
, the Recommendations for Re-Starting Jury Trials during COVID-19,
and the locally-approved Jury Trial Pilot Checklist
. The three documents address changes to facilities and protocols that must be followed to meet social distancing and safety needs, and were developed with the Minnesota Department of Health. Additional information about safely reopening court facilities
can be found on the Minnesota Judicial Branch website.
“A foundation of the American justice system is the jury trial. Jury trials across the State of Minnesota have been postponed since mid-March as part of the battle to stop the spread of COVID-19. But now, the Sixth Judicial District, in collaboration with our county and justice partners, have worked diligently to safely restart jury trials,” said Sixth Judicial District Chief Judge Michael Cuzzo. “Our goal is to fulfill our obligation to administer justice, while protecting the health of our community members who are exercising and performing their duties, responsibilities, and rights in our courthouses. The most basic characteristic of an American jury trial - fairness to all participants - will be the same as ever. We are thankful for our citizen jurors, who are an indispensable part of that process. Doing one's duty as a juror is always a selfless act of community service and patriotism. That has never been truer than it is right now.”
County partners worked in collaboration with the District to adapt facilities and courtrooms to ensure the safety of jurors and community members, implementing such measures as modifying jury boxes, adding floor markings for social distancing, increasing sanitation and cleaning, and adding Plexiglas partitions where needed. In addition, technology is being used to allow public and media access to trials in a way that will not compromise the safety of courtroom participants. The court continues to hold regular court calendars on a remote basis through Zoom. For those members of the public who are unable to access their court hearings remotely, they may contact their attorney or the court for available resources and accommodations.
Jurors in the approved counties should respond to their jury summons as required. When additional counties are approved by the Judicial Council, updates will be made on the Jury Service webpage, mncourts.gov/jurors
Each juror will be provided with a paper mask when he or she arrives at a courthouse each day. If they wish, jurors may supply their own face coverings. Additionally, Minnesota Department of Health social distancing guidelines will be followed in each courthouse, including when and where jurors assemble, participate in voir dire (the question and answer part of the jury selection process), listen to proceedings, deliberate, and move throughout the courthouse. Guidance will be available in each courthouse for how to follow social distancing in seating and elevator use. Where necessary, partitions and physical barriers have been set up in each courthouse to ensure that traffic flow and interactions are taking place safely.
Additional guidance will be posted on the Jury Service webpage, mncourts.gov/jurors
, and distributed with paper summons.