Guidance for Conducting Civil Jury Trials During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA) has published a comprehensive guide to conducting civil jury trials during the COVID-19 pandemic. The white paper, “Guidance for Conducting Civil Jury Trials During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” is a legal resource to address the process of reopening courts and the many issues faced by the courts, the legal community, jurors and the public.

“Unfortunately, the closing of courtrooms across the country has affected hundreds of people whose day in court will be delayed. COVID-19 has challenged the way we all think about the legal system,” says Luther J. Battiste, III, ABOTA National President. “We set forth these guidelines to offer a solution to the courts closing during the pandemic and provide a resource to everyone impacted.”

Mr. Battiste said that the task force consisted of ABOTA National Board members embodying a balance of plaintiff and defense members from a broad scope of the country. The task force included representation from the judicial branch as well as environmental, engineering and toxicology experts.

ABOTA has a long history of fighting for judicial independence and upholding the Constitution and every citizen’s right to a civil trial by jury. This white paper was written with the intent to continue and support this mission. This is a resource for everyone in the legal community to help guide them in reopening courtrooms across the nation.

The task force considered items that will be helpful to courts and lawyers, witnesses and jurors. Courthouses around the country are experiencing closures, stays and a deferral of trials.

“We use this as a tool, not a mandate,” said Steven W. Quattlebaum, ABOTA COVID-19 Task Force chair. “Our primary concern was the administration of civil trials while addressing concerns for COVID-19. We hope this serves as a resource to reopen and help all those impacted see their day in court.” 

Mr. Quattlebaum said the white paper will provide judges with a resource addressing multiple and complex issues, including options for conducting hearings and non-jury trials, technology that allows for jury trials with jurors participating remotely, and constitutional issues related to the Seventh Amendment.

About the American Board of Trial Advocates

Preserving the quality and independence of the judiciary has been a hallmark of ABOTA’s efforts for decades, and the organization believes that confidence in the nation’s judicial system is profoundly important. More on this topic can be found in the ABOTA white paper, Preserving a Fair, Impartial and Independent Judiciary. Founded in 1958, ABOTA is an invitation-only national association of experienced trial lawyers and judges. ABOTA and its members are dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the civil jury trial right provided by the Seventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. ABOTA membership consists of more than 7,600 lawyers—equally balanced between plaintiff and defense—and judges in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.