Personal Injury jury trials are set to return to Maryland circuit courts. Will it work?

courthouseThe word from on high, is that civil jury trials are returning to Maryland's circuit courts. Civil cases include all manner of personal injury cases and the question is, will this actually be feasible?

The answer is maybe? The potential problems are many. First how many jurors will be willing to report with the fall covid 19 resurgence commencing? If people are unwilling to come in to the courthouse then it will be hard to empanel juries. The jury selection process takes a larger group of people say 24 and through the voir dire process and reduces the group to six plus one or two alternates.

The problem is that getting the larger initial group may prove impossible and thus finding the final six to eight may eliminate the ability of litigants to seek removal of prospective jurors for bias or prejudice.

Once litigants lose their ability to strike potentially biased jurors there are immediate due process problems. In lay-person's terms, you can't get a fair trial and thus due process of law, unless you can keep unfair jurors out.

The next problem is where can socially distancing be maintained in courtrooms that were designed to have judges, court personnel, litigants, witnesses, lawyers and jurors all next to each other?  Evidently in Garrett County a high school gym will be used and in Worcester County a fire hall. But are the trials going to happen in such places?

If so, a major case could render the fire hall unusable or unsafe for weeks or even months at a time. And God forbid, what if a trial participant becomes symptomatic?!

Does the trial stop? Is everyone in the trial subject to quarantine? The disturbing possibilities are endless. So it is good news that the Maryland courts are making an effort to resume semi-normal operations but the potential problems are legion.

Robert V. Clark
Maryland Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyer
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