Everyone, at one point in their lives, will receive a little piece of paper from their local courthouse that reads “Official Jury Summons”. While some loath the idea of being part of a jury, others get excited. COVID has had an impact on many different aspects of life. One being in person jury proceedings and how the jury is selected. On March 19, 2020, the Supreme Court of Texas started postponing in person trials. The latest order has extended the postponing to December 1, 2020. While this order affects the Harris County Municipal Courts, the Harris County District and County Courts are set to move forward with proceedings.
One of our attorneys had the pleasure and honor of being called for jury duty late last week for Harris County. He mentioned the District Clerk has done an excellent job making sure everyone is safe, all while being efficient with your time. He walked us through the process of being selected in these times of masks and social distancing.
Jury Summons With COVID Safety Steps
The Harris County Jury paneling occurs at NRG Stadium in Southwest Houston. Before entering the building, all potential jurors must wear a face mask, answer a series of COVID-related question, and have their temperature checked. After being cleared to enter through security, you are seated safely spaced out amongst the other potential jurors. After everyone has entered the arena, you are called down one by one to receive your juror number. You are then be escorted to a long hallway where you wait to enter the makeshift courtroom.
The next step is voir dire. Each potential juror sits in a chair that is approximately 6 feet from one another. Each area has a voice-activated microphone along with a set of sanitized headphones and a plastic face shield. Participants then go through a series of yes or no questions to determine if they move on to the next round of empanelment. At this point in the process, our attorney was stricken for cause. The remaining 13 jurors were to report to the criminal courthouse the following day to start trial.
It’s clear the District Clerk has taken proper COVID safety steps to keep jurors in a safe and sanitary environment.