Van Buren County Court System Ready to Reopen Jury Trials

Voicing strong confidence in the tremendous amount of work that has gone into planning for the occasion, Van Buren County Chief Judge Kathleen Brickley announced Tuesday that jury trials will resume in the court system there.

Judge Brickley says, “After working with local health officials and a significant amount of planning, we feel confident the proper health and safety precautions are in place to lift the suspension of jury trials.” As a result, efforts to resume jury trials have been implemented, and jury summons have been mailed for trials that are scheduled in the coming weeks.

Judge Brickley adds, “We hope to make jury trials not only a fair forum for administering justice but also a safe experience for everyone. The constitution’s guarantee of the right to speedy trial does not contain a pandemic exception and those awaiting trial deserve their day in court. That said, it is my top priority to protect that right while ensuring the health and safety of the jurors, judges, parties, witnesses, attorneys, and court staff.”

Along with the standard jury summons notice, the court has included a letter detailing protocols citizens can expect if they are expected to report for jury duty. That includes:

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  • Heightened cleaning protocols
  • Face coverings provided
  • Health screenings conducted at facility entry points
  • Social distancing arrangements for lines and seating
  • Increased availability of hand sanitizer
  • Staggered reporting times

The court has also made arrangements with local venues to use as “alternate locations” on cases when larger jury pools are needed. The alternate sites have the amount of square footage needed to meet social distancing guidelines and ensure the health and safety for everyone involved in the case.

The court recognizes that some citizens will be unable to appear for jury service because of their age, underlying medical conditions, and other hardships caused by the pandemic. Citizens are encouraged to contact the court on a case by case basis to request excusals and postponements as needed. Chief Judge Brickley, along with the entire bench and staff at the court, are committed to ensuring that jury trials as well as all other proceedings are conducted safely.

The public is encouraged to attend jury trials and other hearings online via livestream or zoom using links found on the system’s virtual court page found here: https://www.vbco.org/virtualcourt.asp.

The public can also follow along on social media or refer to the website for more updates:  https://www.vbco.org/courts.asp