October 30, 2020
The United States District Court in Georgia is set to resume jury trials in January. The first case on the docket will be a restaurant worker’s sexual harassment lawsuit. And the proceedings will be modified to reflect the reality that the trial is happening in the midst of a pandemic: The jury selection will occur in a large ceremonial courtroom to ensure social distancing, lawyers will be farther from the jury than normal and confined when speaking to a lectern, unable to pace the room, jurors will be spaced out (literally, not figuratively), and some may have to sit in the public gallery or on chairs in front of the jury box. And only one alternate juror will be selected, because if a juror becomes ill the trial will likely be halted.
Oh, and one another thing.
District Court Judge William M. Ray II has made clear that, at the very top of his list of priorities, is the mandate that everyone in the courtroom wear a mask unless they are speaking. So here’s an easy way to avoid jury duty: refuse to wear a mask.
“If a juror says they’re not going to wear a mask, I’m going to excuse them for cause, I think that’s justified during the pandemic that we’re dealing with,” Judge Ray said at the pretrial conference. “I wear a mask everywhere I go. My father-in-law won’t wear a mask anywhere, and I would strike him from a jury immediately. So if we have an anti-masker out there, then they’re not going to be able to serve.”