Texas embraces a virtual jury trial amid coronavirus concerns

It’s experimenting with a one-day summary judgement trial via Zoom.

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If you live in Texas, the coronavirus pandemic might not get you out of jury duty. Today, Collin County District Court is conducting what officials believe is the first virtual jury trial. The one-day summary judgment trial will be held via Zoom, with jury selection streamed via YouTube, Reuters reports.

Because of the format of this trial, jurors will hear arguments from both sides and offer a non-binding verdict. The parties will then sit for mediation and attempt to negotiate a settlement. This makes the case an ideal way to experiment with a virtual jury, and it will allow jurors in Collin County, which has over 1,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, to remain at home.

Virtual Jury Selection
Judge Emily Miskel

According to the National Center for State Courts, 39 states and the District of Columbia have encouraged judges to conduct hearings remotely, but bringing in jurors poses another challenge. Arizona’s top court has already approved remote jury selection, and once jury trials resume in Indiana, parties in civil cases will have the option to conduct them remotely, Reuters says.

There are some obvious concerns to address before this becomes the norm. For starters, Zoom has been plagued by security issues, and it may be extra hard to keep remote jurors focused or prevent them from doing research during a trial. At the very least, this could pave the way for virtual jury selection so that people only have to show up in person if they are indeed selected.

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