NORFOLK, VA – The Norfolk Circuit Court has been approved to resume jury trials, effective September 14, 2020. The Court’s plan for resumption of jury trials, made in consultation with the Virginia Department of Health, was one of only four plans in the Commonwealth approved by the Virginia Supreme Court.
The Virginia Supreme Court suspended all jury trials in the Commonwealth due to the COVID-19 pandemic by Order dated May 18, 2020. The Norfolk Circuit Court, along with most courts in Virginia, stopped all jury trials beginning in mid-March, following Governor Ralph Northam’s Declaration of a State of Emergency.
Norfolk’s plan for jury trials mandates:
- All jurors must wear a face covering and stay six feet apart
- Jurors will be scheduled to arrive in groups of 30 every two hours
- Jurors will wait in separate areas in groups of no more than 15
- Jurors will be given regular breaks for hand washing
In addition, jurors will sit six feet apart in renovated jury “boxes” in the courtroom. Jurors will also deliberate cases in the courtroom versus the smaller jury deliberation rooms. All high-touch surfaces will be cleaned frequently. Individuals at high risk for COVID-19 will be instructed how to request excusal or deferral.
Persons summoned to appear for jury duty may review the Court’s Plan at www.norfolkcircuitcourt.us.
The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that all persons accused of a crime shall have the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury. Virginia law defines speedy trial to mean that incarcerated individuals have a right to a trial within five months. In Norfolk, many individuals have been held in jail because jury trials were prohibited by the Virginia Supreme Court due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“By enforcing a prolonged suspension of jury trials throughout the Commonwealth, the courts of Virginia find themselves in the unfortunate position of sanctioning deprivations of basic rights that our nation’s founders listed in the Declaration of Independence more than 200 years ago,” Chief Judge Mary Jane Hall wrote in her submission to the Supreme Court. “When we took our oaths of office as judges, we assumed a sacred duty to assiduously protect these most basic of rights—even during a pandemic. Norfolk’s plan to resume jury trials has been made to protect not only the safety, but the rights, of the citizens of Virginia.”