The latest adjustment in the District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia to the COVID-19 pandemic is the adoption of a modified jury summons packet that will be provided to all prospective jurors within the District. The Court adopted this packet in anticipation of the resumption of criminal jury trials soon, while civil jury trials remain indefinitely postponed. The packet (which was attached to General Order 2020-20, available on the court’s website here) includes a letter to prospective jurors, a screening questionnaire, and a return envelope.
The letter to prospective jurors describes the safety precautions implemented by the Court in response to the pandemic. The letter also provides information about the Court’s restrictions regarding entry to the courthouse, such as the wearing of face masks and entrance restrictions for those that are sick and/or experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 infection.
The screening questionnaire asks various questions relating to the risk that the person may be infected with COVID-19. One purpose of the questionnaire is to avoid requiring that individuals whose jury service may be deferred because of COVID-19 issues nevertheless visit the courthouse for an in-person voir dire proceeding.
In General Order 2020-19, issued on June 30, 2020, the Court stated that it anticipated the resumption of criminal jury trials on September 14, 2020. There has been no further communication from the Court about whether that is still the case given the resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the United States over the past few months.
David Deitch leads the White Collar Defense and Corporate Compliance practice at Berenzweig Leonard. David is an experienced white collar trial lawyer who has tried more than 100 jury trials to verdict in federal and state courts around the nation. He can be reached at [email protected]