At a recent seminar put on by the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys, members of the N.C. task force on resuming jury trials gave an update on jury trial resumption in N.C. There is no definite date for when civil jury trials will resume, but there were some key takeaways from the presentation:
- All counties had to submit a plan for resumption of trials by Sept. 20, 2020. Chief Justice Beasley will review those plans for approval.
- Once approved, the county’s plan will be posted on the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts website.
- No jury summonses can issue until Chief Justice Beasley has approved plans and lifts her order prohibiting jury trials.
- Any jury trials likely couldn’t could start before at least four weeks after Chief Justice Beasley lifts her Order, since that is how long it takes after jury summonses are sent out to get a jury pool pulled together for a trial session.
- Case priority and space limitations will have a big effect on civil trials resuming. Especially in larger counties, civil trials will likely take a backseat to criminal trials. Smaller counties may not have that issue. Space is a big issue too – for example, most counties may only have one courtroom or space large enough to hold 12 jurors and all courtroom personnel due to social distancing requirements. And, that courtroom will have to be used for all trials – both criminal and civil.
- If you consent to a bench trial or six-person jury, your case will likely have higher priority.
- Also, on the priority issue, it is very likely that cases that can be tried in a shorter time period will also get priority. So, if you have a large, multi-party, multi-week trial, it is unlikely it will get tried before the middle to end of 2021.