How the Coronavirus Has Limited Your Right to JusticeSeptember 18th, 2020
By Omid Rejali, Esq.
It has now been over 6 months since the coronavirus pandemic hit our nation and swept all of us from the life we once knew. But how is it impacting your right to petition the courts for your grievances and obtain justice? How has it impacted your right to a jury trial? Who is the virus benefitting? and why at least have we here in San Diego been so slow to move our cases forward?
These are all questions that normally as a trial lawyer I have been thinking about for the past six months.
Right to Jury Trial
The right to a jury trial comes from the 7th Amendment of the constitution. The founders knew that the government and corporations do have a lot of power and wanted to make sure that there was a forum where the common man would be able to be seen as equal to them and be judged by the members of his or her peers. The coronavirus however has taken all of that away from us.
This is an extremely dangerous state to be in and the longer we remain here without putting mechanisms in place to move forward, the more our justice system will be eroding and the more the insurance companies, and the greedy corporations are winning and becoming richer and richer, which also in turn is widening the income inequality gap.
I am not denying in any way that the coronavirus is a global pandemic and we certainly need to be cautious and take measures to prevent its spread. But, shutting down our courthouses for the past six months, and cancelling jury trials until most likely late 2021, was not and is not the proper way of going about it.
Recently I have also been hearing the idea of a zoom jury trial being thrown around. I cannot imagine having zoom jury trials. The entire idea of having a trial is so we can be able to look witnesses in the eye and get a feel of whether they are telling the truth. I find it hard to believe that the same feeling will be able to be conveyed through a video camera.
To prevent the spread of the virus and balance the right to a civil jury trial, our courts can and should immediately begin summoning jurors. Understanding that some jurors may not feel comfortable serving, the court should give them an option to state as such on their summons and, return the summons; or call into the courthouse and notify the clerk; or create an online system where jurors may state their willingness or unwillingness to serve as a juror.
The jurors that are willing to serve can then come to court and be spread in different courtrooms and in the jury lounge and, be called up to each respective court room where a trial is to take place.
By preventing you from exercising your right to jury trial the courts and the insurance companies and corporations are the one's benefitting. It is bothersome to me that our courts have not been able to move quickly enough to put precautions in place to move our trials forward. There are talks that in San Diego County we may not see jury trials for another year and, that is certainly not fair to all of those people who had been waiting for years to have their matters heard.
Justice delayed is justice denied and, we as a people can and should do better.