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Remote Jury Trials a Mixed Bag, Say Judges and Litigators

Remote jury trials conducted since the initial outbreaks of COVID-19 have been a mixed bag of advantages and inconveniences, NPR reports. While connectivity and attention span issues have been present, judges have noted that the juries that are impaneled virtually seem to be more economically and racially diverse than those who are forced to come to the courthouse for selection. When online selection processes are used, the participation rate is much higher than when people are issued a date to show up at the courthouse. This is one reason why some court systems are considering keeping virtual jury trials, or parts of them, even as the pandemic subsides. A new California law allows litigants in civil trials to attend trial virtually. King County Superior Court in Washington has proposed a rule change to the state's supreme court that would allow remote jury selection to continue in both criminal and civil matters.

Judges want to get jurors and litigants back into the courthouse. A 2021 survey of Arizona's judges found that only five percent supported continuing with remote jury trials after the pandemic, though around 25 percent supported continuing with remote jury selection. Others have noted that the allure of being able to try more cases virtually than in person due to higher response rates might cause some court systems to continue conducting some trials virtually. A major limitation has been spotty internet access in rural areas. This precludes online trials as an option for many rural counties. One other byproduct of the virtual process has been that some litigators have a more difficult time seeing how their arguments are being received and making assessments during jury selection.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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