CLOVIS – According to a press release, district courts will resume jury trials beginning this week in the Ninth Judicial District of Curry and Roosevelt counties. Jury trials will restart as well in magistrate courts in the two counties in July.
“Our courts have implemented safeguards against the spread of COVID-19. Protecting the health and safety of jurors and everyone who enters a courthouse is our primary concern as courts resume jury trials,” said Chief Judge Drew Tatum. “The willingness of citizens to serve as jurors ensures the American system of justice continues to work.”
Among the safety precautions implemented by the courts:
- Masks are required for anyone entering a courthouse. Jurors, lawyers, witnesses, judges, court staff and other parties will wear masks during trials and proceedings in which litigants appear in person.
- Temperature checks and health screening questions of people before they enter a courthouse to ensure they do not have COVID-19 symptoms.
- Strict enforcement of proper physical distancing — a minimum of six feet separating people in courtrooms and other locations throughout a courthouse.
- Protective clear plastic dividers in areas with limited spacing, including in some courtrooms between the witness stand and the judge and near the judge’s bench to permit discussions between lawyers and the judge outside the hearing of jurors.
- Jurors will receive a wellness kit with a cloth mask and hand sanitizer. Throughout courthouses, hand sanitizer is available to the public.
- Limiting the size of jury panels to ensure proper physical spacing during jury selection. The district court in Curry County will use a large lecture hall at the Clovis Community College for jury selection. The Roosevelt County District Court will conduct jury selection in its main courtroom.
- Jurors will be seated in courtroom galleries to maintain at least six-foot spacing. Juries will deliberate in courtrooms after all other people exit.
- Areas outside courtrooms are marked with visual aids for maintaining social distancing. Signs about proper physical spacing are posted throughout courts.
- Frequent cleaning and disinfecting in court buildings, particularly high-touch surfaces such as doors, benches, chairs and handrails.
- A separate room in courthouses will be available for public and the press to view trials and other proceedings through an audio-video system rather than being physically present in a courtroom.
The District Court in Roosevelt County started a jury selection today for a trial. The District Court in Curry County will begin jury selections next week. To help limit the number of people in courthouses, district and magistrate courts will continue to use audio-video conferencing to conduct hearings and most other non-jury proceedings. Lawyers and self-represented litigants can file case documents electronically rather than visiting a courthouse.
Jury trials can resume on a district-by-district basis between June 15 and July 15 subject to approval by the Supreme Court of plans by courts for protecting the public health and safety as courthouse operations expand.