Action Committee on Court Operations in Response to COVID-19 - main content
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Process Survey and Risk Identification: Jury Arrival and Departure
The operation of criminal jury processes differs by jurisdiction, location, and court facility. Common elements of jurors’ daily arrival to and departure from the court facility are described below, in order to help define risks and inform appropriate control measures. A more detailed account of these elements is available in the Action Committee’s Phases and Steps of a Criminal Jury Trial.
Elements of the process
- Daily arrival to and departure from court - Jurors are typically responsible for transporting themselves to and from court for each day of a trial. Although they typically remain together during recesses, they may also leave the court facility independently (for example, to eat lunch or get fresh air). Jurors typically return to their homes at the end of each day. In certain circumstances, such as trials in remote regions, jurors may be housed in temporary accommodations (such as a hotel) for the duration of a trial.
- Movement to jury room and use of common facilities - Jurors may access court facilities through common points of entry and exit or be directed to designated entry and exit points. They then proceed to jury rooms, where they congregate as individual (12-14 person) juries before being called into the courtroom. Jury rooms sometimes include male and female washrooms; in other settings, jurors make use of washroom facilities in common use areas of the building.
Hazards related to this process
- Hazards relate both to jurors potentially contracting COVID-19 and transmitting it within the court facility, and to jurors being exposed to COVID-19 within the court facility and transmitting it to others in their homes and communities. Specific hazards include:
- Poorly ventilated and crowded spaces
- Prolonged or multiple close contacts and close-range conversations between jurors, court and security personnel, and other individuals at various stages, including during the commute to and from court, especially if using public transportation; when congregating at common entry and exit points; when using washrooms; during breaks, either within or outside the court facility, and when returning to jurors’ homes
- Physical contact with common or high touch surfaces at all stages, including in the courtroom, the jury box, the witness box, washrooms and other common facilities, and during movement between locations - these surfaces can include doors, elevators, chairs, railings, and desks
Accounting for each element of jurors’ arrival to and departure from the courthouse, the following control measures could be introduced to reduce risks of COVID-19 transmission and to help protect the health and safety of court users and personnel.
In the exercise of due diligence and responsible stewardship, control measures are likely to evolve with knowledge related to the risks posed by COVID-19 and the usefulness of such measures to mitigate those risks.