Jurors Report For Service In Contra Costa County

Matt Bigler
May 26, 2020 - 12:21 pm

    You may not be able to go into the office right now, but if you got a jury summons in Contra Costa County you will need to report to the court.

    The county is the first in the Bay Area to reopen for jury trials.

    “At some point we need to take the padlock off the courthouse doors and we need to move forward with jury trials, because many people are sitting in jail waiting for trial a lot longer than they have in the past,” says criminal lawyer and legal analyst Steven Clark, a former prosecutor. 

    The court is taking precautions, with jurors checking in outside and face coverings required to enter the building. Only three jurors will sit in the jury box at a time, and the rest will be spread out around the courtroom.

    “So you can see that right there the dynamic of the old jury trial is no longer the case,” says Barry Baskin, presiding judge of the Contra Costa County Superior Court. “As long as these restrictions are in place we can’t do trials in the old fashioned way.”

    “A big part of being a lawyer is reading body language, and how can you read body language when you really can’t see someone’s face?” asks Clark. “None of us have ever cross-examined somebody wearing a mask… there’s going to be a lot of issues for lawyers to work out, and develop a new skill set of how to conduct a jury trial in the time of the coronavirus.”

    Jurors over the age of 60 may also be excused, although the age exemption does not apply to courthouse workers.

    The trials being held today are only those that were interrupted by the pandemic, which prompted the state to put a 60 day freeze on trials that ends today. New jurors will be called to the court starting Jun. 1.