Editorial: Jury trials and COVID-19 safety

Editor’s Note: Linda Doggett is the Clerk of the Lee County Court. The views expressed here and in all editorials are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Waterman Broadcasting or NBC2.

Dear Lee County Citizens,

In March, the Florida Supreme Court suspended jury trials across the state due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past few months, new safety guidelines recommended by the CDC have been implemented to protect you in court.

Mindful of your health and well-being, temperature checks are now done upon entry and face coverings are required while inside the building. Common areas are cleaned continuously, hand sanitizer stations are located throughout the building, and social distancing is enforced.

To ensure our citizens can continue to seek justice, Chief Justice Charles Canada recently issued an amendment to Administrative order 20-23. This order specifies how and when jury trials can safely proceed in each county. With our new measures in place, the Florida Supreme Court has determined that jury trials can continue in Lee County. In response, Chief Justice Michael T. McHugh directed Clerk of Court Lee to begin issuing grand jury summons again for the trials scheduled to begin September 14, 2020.

If you are chosen to be a juror, rest assured that your health and well-being remains our top priority. The jury will be dealt with effectively with all of society’s distinct requirements adhered to throughout their service.

To reduce interaction and paperwork between jurors and the Deputy Clerk, we recommend jurors sign up to receive polite email and text reminders. The jury can also check by scanning the barcode on their summons at a kiosk when reporting.

While these measures are comprehensive, we also understand that some citizens may not be able to serve because they have been directly impacted by COVID-19. You may be excused from jury duty if you do not meet the court’s screening requirements upon entry, are at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19, must care for a child or loved one without Care providers are frequently closed or unavailable. for COVID-19 related reasons or is on leave under the Families Coronavirus Response Act.

In addition, potential jurors may defer service for up to six months if they have recently returned to work after being unemployed due to COVID-19 or have suffered financial or personal loss as a result of COVID-19 make it difficult to perform jury service. .

However, even as we focus on the safety and security of our jurors, we are equally focused on the Justice System’s mission to be able to provide constitutional rights to jury trial for our citizens. A recent report from the Trial Court Budget Committee estimated 1,180 criminal and civil grand jury trials have been delayed statewide since March. Lee County alone held nearly 300 grand jury trials last year. Using this historical reference, our current backlog would be approximately 150 jury trials and under construction. We’re ready to get started, safely and securely.

And let me be the first to say a very sincere thank you to those in our community who received summons and are able and willing to serve as a juror. Serving your country as a juror is an obligation and a service you can be very proud of. It is an essential part of our freedoms in this great country, the United States of America.

If you have any questions regarding jury duty in Lee County, please visit or call 239-533-2929.

Thank you and stay healthy.

Linda Doggett
Clerk of Lee County Court Editorial: Jury trials and COVID-19 safety

Tom Vazquez

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