Earlier this month, the San Diego Superior Court held its first criminal trial since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March. In September, jury summons were mailed out to 800 eligible San Diego County residents, although only 41 showed up for service for the trial of John Homer Scarborough.
The county has a significant backlog of cases due to the pandemic, with the presiding judge in the Scarborough case, Judge Frederic Link, stating that there are 2,700 felony cases and 3,000 misdemeanor cases still pending.
During the shutdown, jury trials were put on hold until adequate measures could be put in place to protect jurors, attorneys, judges and others who play integral roles in court proceedings. However, the sheer number of backlogged cases will be an uphill battle for the San Diego courts, especially since most cases are only being tried at the downtown courthouse at this time.
If you receive a summons to jury duty, you may have legitimate concerns about your ability to stay safe in a public venue like a courthouse. You may wonder if you should show up on the designated date, or ignore the summons altogether. Read on to learn more about serving on a San Diego County jury as courts reopen, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Schedule your free consultation today. Contact Criminal Defense Lawyer Joni Eisenstein.
What have the courts done to ensure my safety?
According to a recent news release from the Superior Court of California, County of San Diego, there have been a number of precautions taken, both inside the courthouse and in jury selection processes. Some of the precautionary measures taken include:
- Temperature checks upon entering the courthouse
- Mandatory face masks
- Social distancing protocols
- Increased sanitary procedures, especially in high contact areas
- Increased spacing in the jury lounge
- Installation of protective panels between jurors
- Remodeled courtrooms to accommodate social distancing
- Reduction in the jury pool to 18-20% of the typical numbers
- Online portal and telephone call-in services for attendance alerts and guidance
Do I have to report for jury duty if I don’t feel safe?
Under Code of Civil Procedure section 209, failure to appear as directed by a jury summons is a crime and is considered contempt of court. It can be punishable by a fine or even jail time. Due to the extreme backlog of cases in the criminal courts, jurors are needed now more than ever to fulfill their duty to report. Although the chances of being charged with contempt are low, especially in our current circumstances, it is still vital that jurors respond to the summons to help ensure that defendants get the fair trials that they deserve.
However, with the ongoing pandemic and continued concerns over health and safety, it is not surprising that many jurors are hesitant to report. If you have a valid concern, such as a preexisting condition or recent exposure to COVID-19, you should make the court aware of that through the normal court processes, rather than choosing to ignore the summons altogether.
Get Help from an Experienced San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have any questions about your jury service, pending criminal trial or the San Diego Courts’ COVID-19 response, contact criminal defense attorney Joni Eisenstein to schedule a free consultation.
As a leading San Diego defense attorney, Joni Eisenstein understands the ins and outs of the San Diego County courts and can help you navigate the complex legal system. Call 760-721-3161 today for your consultation.
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