On October 27, 2020, the Illinois Supreme Court issued an order permitting remote jury selection in civil jury trials. The Court’s order recognizes Governor Pritzker’s declaration of a state of emergency due to the ongoing COVID-19-pandemic, which necessitated temporary court-imposed restrictions to minimize the impact on COVID-19 on the court system while continuing to provide access to justice.
As they are a necessity to administer justice in Illinois, the ability to hold civil jury trials must be weighed against the needs of public safety and the safety of the jurors, court staff, witnesses, and trial personnel. In recognizing this need, the Court authorized the various Circuit Courts in Illinois to conduct remote jury selection via video conference (i.e. Zoom, Skype, etc.) “so that litigants can access justice in a timely fashion while keeping all jurors, court personnel, litigants, and the public safe.”
The Court’s order provides a framework to administering such remote jury selection, provided that the Circuit Courts abide by the guidelines established by the Court Operations During COVID-19 Task Force, and adopted by the Illinois Supreme Court on October 27, 2020.
Remote jury selection in a given case requires the consent of all parties, unless the judge finds, after weighing the factors of public safety and the parties’ rights to access to justice, that the case presents a compelling circumstance to proceed to remote jury selection absent parties’ consent. One can hypothesize cases of hardship or exceptional needs for justice in catastrophic injury cases where a judge’s findings could overrule a party’s refusal to consent to these measures.
So far, there have not been any trials where these measures have been implemented in the St. Louis Metro East area, although they are being discussed in several counties close to St. Louis.