Welcome back, jurors!

Trial by jury is a concept central to American democracy. When you answer the call for jury service, you are strengthening our democracy. So judges, attorneys and court staff were happy to return to something familiar and fundamental in our society when our circuit resumed criminal jury trials in Manatee and Sarasota counties over the past few weeks.

For those citizens who opened their mailboxes to find a summons for jury duty, be assured that the courts have been planning for the return of jurors to our courtrooms, and since July we have had measures in place to ensure the health and safety of those entering court buildings.

Those measures include frequent and daily cleaning of courtrooms and other public spaces, and limiting the number of people entering the building. Most court hearings are still occurring by video and phone conferencing, and although in-person hearings have increased a little now that we have reached Phase 2, in-person hearings are still the exception, and not the rule, except that we have resumed jury trials.

We check all judicial center visitors for fever and ask screening questions regarding COVID-19 symptoms. If anyone has a temperature higher than 100.4 degrees or is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, they cannot enter the building. Another safety measure is that everyone must wear facemasks while in public areas. Additionally, visitors will find multiple hand sanitizing stations on each floor and in each courtroom.

During jury assembly, prospective jurors have seating that allows for six-feet of physical distance between others. To ensure proper distancing, we only summon a small number of prospective jurors each day, although we are summoning four days per week.

All courtrooms and jury deliberation rooms have been carefully measured, and available seats are clearly marked.

Social distancing requirements apply to elevator capacity, which is limited to three people – one bailiff plus two jurors.

Prospective jurors with COVID-19 symptoms, such as:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fever or chills
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

are asked to stay at home and ask to reschedule their jury service by calling the Clerk of Court in the county where they were summoned.

Additionally, prospective jurors may be excused from service if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms; are at higher risk for severe illness due to COVID-19 infection as identified by the CDC and requests to be excused; must care for a child or relative whose regular care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19; or is receiving leave pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

For the most current information on court operations and updates, please follow us @12circuitFL on Twitter and Instagram.

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