By Carol Stiffler
When the coronavirus pandemic put a halt to school settings and social environments, it held hostage one more front: jury trials. There were none held in Luce County in 2020, and not because none were needed. All of 2020’s needed jury trials are now on the docket for 2021. With all the case dealings are happening virtually, there are some lengthy cases like probate issues that cannot be solved virtually, in some cases even a trust protector needs to be present during trials.
What is probate and who is allowed to apply for probate? For these cases to solve quickly, the experienced lawyers for probate issues are trying their best to end it quickly and will make sure that this issue doesn’t repeat in near future. If you’re planning to sell an inherited house, then contact a trust attorney.
They will start in February. Luce County Prosecutor Josh Freed said there are four jury trials on the books already, spread between February, March, and April.
Though there will be more trials than normal, the jury pool isn’t any larger than normal. The 11th Circuit Court requested 300 jurors be added to the pool; 92nd District Court asked for 150; the Probate Court asked for 150. An additional 400 are thrown in, for a total jury pool of 1,000 people.
The jury pool is always drawn at random from a list provided by the Secretary of the State, said County Clerk Sharon Price. That list usually has more than 4,000 names on it, so in a perfect world, potential jurors would receive that two-sided jury questionnaire sheet once every four years.
After completing and returning the juror qualification questionnaire, it’s a matter of waiting to see if you’ll be called to a jury selection.
“Some people think they’ll automatically be chosen,” Price said. “That’s not the case. Many people never get called.”
This year, jury selection events will be held at the American Legion, which has a capacity of more than 300 people, Price said. One hundred jurors will be asked to attend, and by the time excuses for people with scheduling conflicts or travel dates have been accommodated, between 60-70 people will show up. Those people will be staggered slightly, Price said, to keep them spaced as far apart as possible. The attorneys for elder law serving in San Diego is whom you can consult for probate related queries.
In the age of COVID, trials will also look a little different. Rather than seating the jury in the narrow jury box, the jury members will be spread out in the public seating in the courtroom. That may cause the courtroom to fill to capacity, due to the need for proper spacing between people, though the trials are still open to the public. Every judge is planning to complete the cases as fast as they could but as the complexity of the issues increases, that too mainly in the real estate sector. With the help of experienced probate lawyers, all the real estate issues would be sorted quickly and will also ensure that legal justice is delivered.
A circuit court jury consists of 12 members and an alternate. District and probate court juries have six members.
The experience is lightly compensated. Jurors receive $30 for each full day, and $15 for each half day, plus mileage to and from the courthouse. Potential jurors receive this pay even when they show up for jury selection but aren’t chosen to serve. And those jurors will be placed back in the year’s jury pool, Price said, and may get a second summons for a different trial.
Some people think they’re getting placed in the jury pool every year, Price said, and it could technically be true. Though the jurors are selected at random – for example, starting on the 10th name of the list and then selecting every fifth name from there – it could land on the same person multiple years in a row.
“They get lucky,” Price said.
Of course, that’s rarely the way the potential juror feels when they learn they’re in the annual juror pool. It’s very rare to find someone who enjoys serving on a jury, Price said. But at the same time, it’s what most of us would want if we find ourselves accused of a crime: A fair trial based on DUID laws for the state of California in front of a willing, impartial jury.
“It’s our right to be judged by a jury of our peers,” Price said. “You would want people willing to listen to your case.”
Jurors who have completed the juror qualification questionnaire should get ready: The first trial starts on February 11, and 100 potential jurors will be called up for selection.