Jury duty summons on the way as courts resume trials

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Supreme Court allowed judges to resume jury trials on March 1, meaning you could have a summons on the way.

Judge Heather Welch and her colleagues in Marion County face a large backlog of cases that need to go to trial. The county held only 60 jury trials in 2020, compared to around 300 in a normal year.

“We have to balance keeping people safe but also making sure we are allowing people to exercise (their) Constitutional rights,” Welch said.

Courts will need to abide by COVID-19 protocols that were approved by the Indiana Supreme Court last summer. Those protocols differ by county, but include mask mandates and social distancing during both jury selection and trial.

Welch held one jury trial without issue in September, during a three-month period that the court did impanel a select number of juries.

“I did think that this plan worked very well when I did my jury trial,” Welch said.

Fred Schultz, President of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association, hoped to see more people show up for jury duty in the coming months.

“Please participate,” Schultz said. “I promise you that your concerns have been taken into account because they’re the same concerns that the bailiff has, the court reporter has, the judge has.”

If you do receive a summons in the mail, it should come with a letter explaining the court’s protocols and providing contact information if you have any questions. Schultz suggested contacting your county’s court administrator with concerns.

In Marion County, the first scheduled jury trial did not happen because of a lack of jurors. Welch hoped lower COVID-19 positivity rates and greater vaccinations would encourage jurors to show up so that the court can catch up with its backlog and get back to business as usual.

“It is important and I think it’s a great opportunity for our citizens to do something positive and give back during this challenging time,” Welch said.

You can view your county’s COVID-19 jury trial plan, which remains the same as approved in 2020, by clicking the link here.

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