Jury Service During COVID-19

Dear Juror:

On behalf of the judges, circuit court clerk, Lisa McSwain, and our court staffs, I’d like to thank you for your willingness to serve as a juror. Jury service is one of the most important duties of citizenship that we have in our country and you should be justifiably proud of your role. You’ll be taking part in a rich tradition that dates back hundreds of years and stands as the cornerstone of our justice system. I believe that you, like so many others before you, will find jury service to be an extremely satisfying experience. But we also want to make your experience a safe one.

This letter has been prepared to familiarize you with some of the precautions that have been implemented to help keep you safe during the present COVID-19 pandemic and to hopefully answer some of your questions about what you can expect from your jury service at this time.

What time should I report to the Courthouse to begin jury service?

Those individuals receiving a jury summons for Monday, September 14, 2020 that have NOT qualified online will report to Circuit Courtroom No. 1, located on the third floor of the courthouse, at 8:00 a.m.

 Those individuals receiving a jury summons for Monday, September 14, 2020 that HAVE qualified online will report to Circuit Courtroom No. 1, located on the third floor of the courthouse, at 9:30 a.m.

Please feel free to park anywhere you are able to find available parking around the courthouse. The number of jurors called has been drastically reduced, so hopefully you’ll have no difficulty finding a parking place. Jurors will enter the courthouse through the Main entrance located in the back of the courthouse, adjacent to First Avenue SW.

Must I wear a mask during my jury service?

For your safety and the safety of others, Alabama law requires that you wear a mask as you enter the courthouse and anytime that you cannot maintain a social distance of six feet from others. Since all prospective jurors will be seated at least six feet apart from other potential jurors, you won’t be required to wear your mask once you have been checked in and seated. Of course, you can always keep your mask on if that makes you more comfortable. However, anytime that you get up from your seat, you must put your mask back on until you return to your assigned seat.

Will my temperature and that of other jurors be taken?

Before you enter the courtroom to begin your jury service, you will stand in front of a no contact thermal scanner that will check each potential juror for a fever. Any person having a fever greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit will not be allowed entry to a courtroom.

After I arrive at the courthouse, where should I report?

Jury check-in and orientation will take place in circuit courtroom number one located on the third floor, near the north end of the courthouse. After entering the courthouse and walking through a metal detector, you’ll either take the stairs or ride the elevators to a third-floor courtroom to be checked in. Stairways are designated for one-way travel only to help maintain a consistent social distance from others. The center staircase located near the elevators as you enter the courthouse has been designated for travel up and the stairways on the south end of the courthouse are designated for traveling down to a lower floor. If you decide to use one of the two elevators, please remember that only two individuals may ride an elevator at one time who are not members of the same household so that social distancing can be preserved.

Will hand sanitizer be provided for jurors to use?

As you enter circuit courtroom number one, you’ll notice a contactless hand sanitizing station has been set up so that each person who enters can easily practice good hand sanitizing, which the CDC has indicated is one of the best ways to limit the spread of COVID-19, along with good hand washing practices.

Has the courtroom I will report to been sanitized before my arrival?

Before jurors arrive for orientation, all seats in the courtroom gallery will have been sanitized with a disinfectant solution designed to kill the COVID-19 virus. In addition, all pens and other frequently touched surfaces will also be thoroughly cleaned with a disinfectant, and this cleaning will occur periodically throughout the day.

 What happens after I arrive at circuit courtroom number one?

Upon your arrival, if a line has formed to be checked in for jury duty, we ask each person to maintain a distance of at least six feet from others. Social distancing markers have been placed on the floor to indicate where each person should stand while waiting to be checked in. Circuit Court Clerk Lisa McSwain will be waiting in the third-floor courtroom to greet you as you arrive to begin your jury service. After being checked in, you will be directed to your assigned seat and you may remove your mask at that time, if you wish. However, if you need to get up from your seat during a recess, please put your face mask back on until you return to your assigned seat. Once all jurors have been checked in, a judge will begin jury orientation and qualification of the jury.

 Will I be kept at least six feet away from other potential jurors?

If a line forms as individuals arrive for jury service, each person will stand on social distancing markers that have been placed six feet apart. Also, to ensure proper social distancing, no more than three jurors will be seated on a courtroom bench and every other bench will remain empty. Each seat in the courtroom gallery has been given a unique number and every prospective juror has been assigned a seat.

 If I am selected to serve on a jury, will I still be seated at least six feet from other jurors?

If you are chosen as a juror to hear a case, you will be assigned a seat in a newly configured jury box, once the new jury box has been thoroughly sanitized. Because it would be impossible to keep an appropriate social distance in a traditional jury box, we have created a much larger jury box so that all 12 individuals are able to maintain a consistent 6 feet of separation from other jurors. During recesses and when a trial has concluded and it’s time for a jury to begin deliberations, jurors will be escorted to a small courtroom that will be closed to the general public throughout the trial and jury deliberations.

 Is my jury service over if I’m not selected for a jury the first day?

Those individuals who have not been chosen as jurors for the first case will be dismissed for the day, with instructions to check back after five o’clock each afternoon for further reporting instructions. Your jury service will not last longer than five days and may be fewer than five days depending on the cases being tried.

 Must I report for jury service if I am at greater risk of contracting COVID19?

As we restart jury trials, I want you to know that your wellbeing is a top priority. We have adopted new procedures especially designed to help keep jurors and other court participants safe. No court official would ever ask you to put your health at risk by serving on a jury. Many of you have understandable fears about contracting COVID-19 due to age or an underlying health condition. The law allows you to be excused from jury service because of legitimate health concerns. If you have worries about attending a public event such as a jury trial, please let us know by completing the online juror questionnaire that is referenced in your jury summons. If you do not have the ability to complete the online form, you may also contact the circuit court clerk at the telephone number listed on this website to speak with a designated court official that has been authorized to defer your jury service to another time or excuse you altogether. All requests to have jury service excused should be made before September 1, 2020.

 Thanks again for your willingness to serve as a juror. We look forward to seeing you in court!

  

                                                       Very Truly Yours,

  

                                                       Gregory A. Nicholas

                                                       Presiding Circuit Judge