TOPEKA—The Kansas Supreme Court today issued two administrative orders and a mandates and guidance document to give direction to courts as they prepare to safely resume jury trials.
The orders and the guidance document incorporate best practices recommended in the report Resuming Trials Amid COVID-19 the Supreme Court received last week from the Ad Hoc Jury Task Force.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, we canceled jury trials to comply with statewide efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Chief Justice Marla Luckert. “Since then, through innovation and access to videoconferencing technology, state courts have resumed hearing most cases with the exception of jury trials.”
The Supreme Court created the Ad Hoc Jury Task Force in early June specifically to recommend best practices courts will follow to protect the health of jurors and other courtroom participants so jury trials can resume.
"I speak for the entire court when I say I am grateful for the time task force members devoted to this project and for the speed at which they produced their report," Luckert said.
The Supreme Court Mandates and Guidance Regarding Resuming Jury Proceedings spells out the Supreme Court’s requirements for courts based on recommendations made in the report from the Ad Hoc Jury Task Force.
“Many variables impact which task force recommendations a court will need to adopt, including the physical layout of the court, local needs, and available resources,” Luckert said. “The mandates and guidance document articulates the Supreme Court’s expectations to provide for juror education and safety, and public and media access to proceedings.”
Administrative Order 2020-PR-093 requires each judicial district to submit a plan for resuming jury trials to the Office of Judicial Administration, which will review the plans to verify that the Supreme Court’s mandates are met.
Administrative Order 2020-PR-094 extends the requirement that masks or facial coverings be worn in all court offices and courtrooms to any outdoor court proceedings.
The report Resuming Trials Amid COVID-19 from the Ad Hoc Jury Task Force includes recommendations on these key topics:
adding numerous safeguards to protect jurors;
communicating with jurors pretrial and during orientation;
securing adequate jury pools;
using pretrial measures to minimize the length of jury service;
conducting a fair trial while protecting juror and court participant safety; and
best practices for virtual trials.
In its report, the task force acknowledged there is no single approach and that the state's 31 judicial districts are vastly different in terms of facilities, technology, and resources.