How Are Juries Affected by the COVID-19 Crisis?

empty courtroom

Written By: Steve Rastin, Personal Injury Lawyer

Jury trials have been infrequent during the COVID-19 pandemic, and courts have continuously adapted to these uncertain times. In March 2020, Ontario temporarily suspended in-person jury trials and have found difficulty in determining the best course of action for reinstating them. During 2020, COVID-19 cases frequently spiked, making the courts nervous about allowing in-person jury trials. With the COVID-19 vaccine rolling out, questions are being raised about what to expect from jury trials in the coming months.

In-person jury trials

In-person jury trials are slowly being brought back into rotation but are still uncommon for most courts. However, asking a large group of people to sit in a courtroom is currently not the safest option. Jurors do not have a say in whether they can sit in a courtroom as part of the jury, and courts recognize the risk posed to jurors.

Virtual jury trials

In Ontario, the Courts are moving ahead with virtual trials - primarily by Zoom - and generally only in cases involving a judge alone without a jury. Courts were closed for several months but are not generally open to conduct some - but not all - aspects of normal litigation. Judges are hearing motions, doing pretrials, handling case management issues, and doing full trials. The Ministry of the Attorney General has obtained a program called Caselines, intended to allow lawyers to upload documents to the court for a virtual trial. However, the fact remains that jury trials stopped suddenly in March 2020 and show no sign of returning anytime soon. As the vaccination program picks up speed, the courts signaled that they intend to return to normal slowly. Criminal and family cases will certainly receive priority. Many lawyers have tried to strike jury notices to get their clients' cases back on track. Jury trials will likely resume in a limited fashion in later 2021, and the Courts hope to return to normal sometime in 2022. However, the backlog will be considerable, and there is currently a discussion in Ontario as to whether juries for civil matters should be abolished.

Contact a lawyer

Whether you face an in-person or virtual jury, you should consider having a skilled lawyer to represent you. Our team could help you navigate these unprecedented times with ease and keep you updated on your case's status. Reach out to Gluckstein Lawyers today to see how we could help you.


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