Southern District to resume jury trials next week

The Indiana Southern District Courts will resume jury trials next week following a COVID-19 suspension that’s been in effect since March.

Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson on Monday issued a general order for the resumption of jury trials Sept. 1 at the federal courthouses in Indianapolis, Terre Haute, Evansville and New Albany. However, the general order does not preclude district court judges from continuing a jury trial for reasons related to the pandemic, or from “making the necessary findings to exclude any such delay under the Speedy Trial Act” in criminal jury trials.

Several measures have been implemented to keep jurors safe, including mandating face masks and social distancing, installing Plexiglas barriers where appropriate, employing enhanced cleaning procedures and requiring visitors to answer health questionnaires, among other measures. The court has also created a Frequently Asked Questions page on its website for jurors.

Per the general order, the Southern District clerk can excuse jurors from service upon a showing of “undue hardship or extreme inconvenience.” That includes potential jurors who:

  • Have ongoing COVID-19 symptoms or a positive test at the time of the request.
  • Are in a high-risk category for COVID-19 infection.
  • Are quarantined due to exposure to a person who has tested positive.
  • Are caring for a family member or dependent who has COVID-19 symptoms or a positive test.
  • Are health care professionals currently deemed essential to the care and/or treatment of COVID-19 patients.

Until further order, the clerk must temporarily excuse these potential jurors upon written request. Jurors who are excused for these reasons will be summonsed again for service at a later date or be reinserted into the jury wheel.

The federal court first suspended jury trials in March and has renewed that suspension in the ensuing months. It has also maintained a COVID-19 response page on its website.

Also resuming jury trials is the Indianapolis court system, which resumed felony jury trials Monday.

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