Connecticut Federal Court and Covid-19 – Jury Trial Update
New developments since our last updates, here and here, are cause for celebration (or cautious optimism), depending on your perspective. By order dated July 14, 2020, Chief Judge Stefan R. Underhill will now allow jury selection and trials in criminal cases beginning November 2, 2020 and the same in civil cases beginning September 1, 2020. This announcement is in stark contrast to the Connecticut State Courts where no jury trials are expected in 2020 and perhaps not until later in 2021.
Criminal Jury Trials May Begin November 2, 2020
While the criminal cases scheduled for jury selection and trial before November 2, 2020 remain continued by order of the court, Chief Judge Underhill has permitted the district judges and magistrates to schedule criminal jury selections and trials after November 2, 2020. Judge Underhill has ordered that priority will be given to short trials involving defendants who have been detained the longest.
Civil Jury Trials May Begin September 1, 2020
Like the criminal cases, civil cases scheduled for jury selection and trial before September 1, 2020 remain continued by order of the court, Chief Judge Underhill has permitted the district judges and magistrates to schedule criminal jury selections and trials after September 1, 2020.
Judge Underhill has encouraged counsel to volunteer suitable cases – short trials with few witnesses – by filing a joint motion with the presiding judge.
No Word Yet on Safety Measures
While we are excited about the resumption of trials in the District of Connecticut, we do not have much detail on how that will all look in practice. The order at issue references that the civil trials “may invovle the use of safety measures being developed by the Court to protect jurors, litigants, counsel, Court staff, and the public.” No measures have been disclosed at this time.
The Administrative Office of the United States Courts has produced a Report of the Jury Subgroup of the COVID-19 Judicial Taskforce. It is a collection of common sense considerations for safe and effective trial jury and grand jury operations. From communication of safety to the public to prospective juror questionnaires, travel and space preparation, seating and deliberation, the Report is a good starting point if you are expecting a jury trial in the next few months in the District of Connecticut. It is clear that these recommendations must be (and will be) tailored to embrace the actual conditions as they exist in the District of Connecticut.
If you have a question about appearing pro hac vice in state court or federal court in Connecticut, local counsel services, or appearing as a visiting lawyer before a state agency or in an arbitration proceeding in Connecticut, please feel free to call Attorney John Radshaw in New Haven today at (203) 654-9695. For more information about Attorney Radshaw and his practice, visit www.localcounselct.com.