Courts across the country are facing immense backlogs because of the mandatory closures and limited in-person proceedings implemented over the past 10 months of the COVID-19 pandemic. While waiting for more people to be vaccinated and for coronavirus case numbers to decrease, Michigan courts have been using remote technology and have implemented specific parameters for conducting in-person jury proceedings. The goal is to handle new cases and address the backlog with minimal risk to court personnel and visitors.
Monitoring Local Public Health Data
The monitoring of local public health data is a key part of the Michigan courts’ plan for conducting jury proceedings during the pandemic. This will allow each court to determine if having a jury trial would present an “excessive public health risk” based on current COVID-19 test results.
Jury proceedings at Michigan courts will only proceed if:
- The county’s 7-day average of positive test results is 10% or less.
- The county’s 7-day average of COVID-19 cases is 70 cases per million residents or less. This criterion may not apply if a county has fewer than 20 cases as its 7-day average, depending on its population.
- There have been no known coronavirus cases at the court facility within the past 14 days.
The courts will also consider any localized outbreaks, emergency department visits for coronavirus symptoms, deaths among county residents, and COVID hospitalization rates.
Social Distancing & Juror Safety
When a Michigan court opens for an in-person jury trial, strict guidelines will be implemented. This includes mandatory six-foot social distancing, coronavirus symptom screenings, and face coverings. The courts will also work to maximize remote proceedings on days that in-person proceedings are taking place, to minimize the number of court personnel and visitors at the facility. Additionally, juror requests for excuses or deferrals will be considered and granted when these requests are made because the juror or a person living with them is at a high risk of developing a severe case of COVID-19.
The courts will collect the names and contact information of all people coming into the building on the days of in-person jury trials, solely for the purpose of contact tracing. This will allow the courts to determine who may be at risk of contracting the coronavirus if anyone should be diagnosed.
Weighing Risks to Protect Public Health
Each court facility will weigh the risks of conducting in-person jury trials based on the latest local public health data. Carefully monitoring case numbers and the percentage of positive test results will allow counties with lower averages to proceed while preventing counties with high percentages from contributing to the spread of the coronavirus.
How Will These Rules Affect Your Case?
If you are facing criminal proceedings, your case will be handled on an individual basis depending on local coronavirus statistics. Backlogs may also affect your case, and certain steps may be conducted remotely to limit in-person contact. If your case does need to go to trial, I can talk to you about the precise social distancing guidelines that we will need to adhere to for our protection and the protection of others.
Even with the many challenges the coronavirus pandemic has brought, I can use my experience as a criminal defense attorney to protect your rights. I have been working in this field since 2002 and have helped clients from all walks of life in Farmington Hills, Oakland County, and beyond. We may have more obstacles to face and more delays to deal with because of the pandemic, but we can push through and succeed.
Contact my firm today to find out how I can help with your case.