Fort Wayne Indiana Personal Injury Lawyer and Attorney Blog

Indiana Returns to Jury Trials Post-Covid 19

By Jack H. FarnbauchNovember 24, 2020

As Hoosier trial courts prepare for the return of in-person proceedings with COVID-19 precautions, many unanswered questions remain about the best practices for safely conducting jury trials. Marion Superior Judge Heather Welch earlier this year joined a panel of judges from across the country during an American Bar Association webinar to confront the issue, discussing ideas on how to best reintroduce jury trials.


Obviously, the size of the county and the number of people who enter a courthouse will determine how to move forward. Marion County courts (in Indianapolis) began reopening some in-person proceedings on June 15, while continuing to maintain social distancing and other public-safety measures. As a jurist in Indiana’s largest court system, Welch said Marion County plans to socially distance its jury pool members at 6 feet or more and require everyone wear facemasks.


“It is our intent to take people’s temperatures, because these jury trials can last three or more days,” Welch said. “We want to make sure we have the safest environment for our citizens to serve as jurors, for our staff, the judge, the lawyers, and the litigants. With more than 5,000 individuals coming through the court’s home in the Marion County City-County Building on an ordinary day, anticipating PPE needs will be tricky.” 


Courts are also looking to use technology and other measures to keep people safe. “We have some judges starting to look at remote, some counties looking at using other facilities, maybe school gyms, maybe theaters, so we can socially distance jurors,” Rush said. “… I will say jury trials are the toughest piece to crack because you look at jurors deliberating, eating meals together — can they be social distanced?”


Lake Circuit Civil Division Judge Marissa McDermott said, “we have platforms like Zoom and Court Call and the plain old telephone being very helpful to keep cases moving forward. We see that as being something that we are probably, at least in the foreseeable future, going to continue to do,” she said.


You can read more here.