Kansas Courts to safely resume jury trials

Published: Aug. 4, 2020 at 5:56 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The Kansas Supreme Court has issued administrative orders and guidance for courts to safely resume jury trials.

The Kansas Supreme Court says it has issued two administrative orders and a mandate and guidance document to direct cost as they prepare to safely resume jury trials.

The Court says the orders and guidance document incorporate best practices recommended in the Resuming Trials Amid COVID-19 report the Supreme Court released last week from the Ad Hoc Jury Task Force.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, we canceled jury trials to comply with statewide efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Chief Justice Marla Luckert. “Since then, through innovation and access to videoconferencing technology, state courts have resumed hearing most cases with the exception of jury trials.”

The Supreme Court says it created the Ad Hoc Jury Task Force in early June to specifically recommend best practices to protect the health of jurors and other courtroom participants so jury trials may resume.

“I speak for the entire court when I say I am grateful for the time task force members devoted to this project and for the speed at which they produced their report,” Luckert said.

The Court says the Supreme Court Mandates and Guidance Regarding Resuming Jury Proceedings outline the Supreme Court’s requirements for courts based on recommendations made int he report from the Ad Hoc Jury Task Force.

“Many variables impact which task force recommendations a court will need to adopt, including the physical layout of the court, local needs, and available resources,” Luckert said. “The mandates and guidance document articulates the Supreme Court’s expectations to provide for juror education and safety, and public and media access to proceedings.”

According to the Court, Administrative Order 2020-PR-093 requires judicial districts to submit a plan for resuming jury trials to the Office of Judicial Administration, which reviews plans to verify that the Supreme Court’s mandates are met.

The Court says Administrative Order 2020-PR-094 extends mask and facial covering requirements in all court offices and courtrooms to any outdoor court proceedings.

According to the Court, the report Resuming Trials Amid COVID-19 from the Ad Hoc Jury Task Force includes recommendations on the following:

  • adding numerous safeguards to protect jurors;
  • communicating with jurors pretrial and during orientation;
  • securing adequate jury pools;
  • using pretrial measures to minimize the length of jury service;
  • conducting a fair trial while protecting juror and court participant safety; and
  • best practices for virtual trials.

The Court says in the Supreme Court report, the task force acknowledges there is no single approach and that the state’s 31 judicial districts are vastly different in terms of facilities, technology and resources.

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