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Waukesha County courts to resume jury trials on Tuesday

BizCourts_klh The Waukesha County Courthouse will be one of the sites where the Wisconsin Supreme Court will be launching a business courts pilot program. The program, which would create dockets dedicated to business litigation will launch in July next year. The justices are seeking input from practitioners and other stakeholders and are expected to host a public hearing in February. (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

Jury trials will resume in Waukesha County this week. (File photo by Kevin Harnack)

Jury trials will resume in Waukesha County on Tuesday with protective measures in place to minimize risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Third Judicial District Chief Judge Jennifer Dorow signed an order on Thursday authorizing jury trials to start again under the county courts’ operational plan. The county first resumed other in-person proceedings on June 22.

Waukesha County courts will schedule the start of jury trials on multiple days per week and stagger report time for jurors to maximize the use of designated jury trial courtrooms and accommodate social distancing.

In addition, anyone entering the courthouse must answer COVID-19 screening questions; wear a face mask inside the building, unless a court official says otherwise; and keep six feet apart from other people.

Dorow said cases have been prioritized on the right to a speedy trial, case type, input from victims and other factors.

The jury trial requirements outlined in Waukesha County’s operational plan are as follows:

Trial Days

  • In order to maximize the use of our designated jury trial courtrooms and reduce the
    backlog of jury trials, as well as accommodate the social distancing required for
    jurors during the voir dire process, the Courts will schedule the start of jury trials
    on multiple days per week (Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays) and stagger the
    report time for jurors, as appropriate.
  • Exceptions:
    • If there is not a civil trial scheduled and there is a third non-custody criminal trial scheduled, the civil courtroom can be used for the noncustody criminal case.
    • Five day or lengthier trials can start on Monday.
    • Juvenile Court should only be used for six-person juvenile court type trials.

Jury Status Hearings

  • All jury status hearings are to be scheduled no later than the Thursday prior to the start of the trial and if feasible the Monday prior. This will allow for the prioritizing of trials and movement of court officials to accommodate trial and court calendars.

Jury Assembly Areas

  • Jury Assembly Room (JAR): In order to maximize the use of the JAR, the Clerk’s office will remove the tables in the JAR and adjacent café on days these spaces will be used for jury assembly purposes. The chairs will be lined up around the wall and middle area of the room.
  • Alternate Jury Assembly Areas:
    • Cafeteria: Half of the cafeteria will be designated as an alternate jury assembly area when needed. For such use, the chairs will be lined up around the walls and middle area of the room.
    • Cafeteria breakout room: The cafeteria breakout room will be used as an overflow room if the JAR and café are overcapacity.
    • Juvenile Center: Jury Assembly will be held in the Juvenile Center for any 6 person trials that are held there.

Selected Jury Trial Courtrooms

  • Short Term: The courts have identified one civil courtroom, two criminal courtrooms and the juvenile center for jury trial use. The Judges will schedule trials
    into those courtrooms on a rotating basis based on priority scheduling as determined by the Judges on a divisional basis. The following courtrooms have been reviewed and determined to be the best options for use:

    • C267 (Civil)
    • C215 (Criminal)
    • C162 (Criminal)
    • Juvenile Center (6-person juvenile/related jurisdiction hearings)
  • Long Term: An on-going review of the short-term plan will be done to determine
    whether the courts are able to expand the number of courtrooms available for jury
    trials to all or a more phased in approach.
  • These courtrooms will only be used for jury trials once all Plexiglas is installed.

Voir Dire

  • C350 or the individual court rooms as outlined below will be used for jury selection
    (voir dire). Jurors will report to the Jury Assembly Room and once assembled sent
    to the appropriate courtroom for jury selection. Once the jury is picked, the jurors
    will go to C215, C162 or C267 for the trial.
  • When Plexiglas is added to the gallery of C215 and C267, those courtrooms can be used for voir dire as well as C350.
  • Voir Dire for 6 person trials held in the Juvenile Center will be conducted in the Juvenile Courtroom.
  • When feasible, the number of jurors called will be reduced through the use of prevoir dire questionnaires.

Plexiglas Locations for Selected Jury Trial Courtrooms

  •  Bench
    • Between clerk and judge
    • Between judge and witness
    • Between witness and court reporter
  • Jury box
    • Between the two rows of jurors
    • Between each juror – approximately four feet high
  •  Well
    • Counsel Tables: Plexiglas will be installed at each counsel table separating the participants. It will sit on the table about 18 inches and then hang over (L shaped). A little space will be created at the bottom of the Plexiglas so that documents can be passed between counsel and client.
    • Bailiff station: a shield will need to be created at the bailiff station in situations where the bailiff is within 6 feet of the defense table.
  •  Gallery
    •  Seating Rows: Between each row to facilitate voir dire and allow for additional public seating

Deliberation Rooms

  • C267 Jury Room
  • Jury Assembly Room
  • Administration Conference Rooms
  • Juvenile Court Jury Room

Trial priority

  • The following case types will be prioritized:
    • Criminal cases in which speedy trial demands and prompt disposition requests have been made
    • ME, CF, TPRs and any other cases that have time limits, followed by CM, CV and PR case types.

Personal protective equipment

  • Face coverings, hand sanitizer and sanitization/hygiene will be followed and utilized as outlined above.

Public viewing

  • Priority seating in the courtroom will be given to family members and victim(s). If sufficient seating is not available, the trial will be streamed into another courtroom, broadcast by Zoom or live streamed on YouTube.

Microphone

  • The use of a microphone stand with a mesh or external cover should be used for microphones located within the courtrooms.

About Michaela Paukner, [email protected]

Michaela Paukner is the legal reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal. She can be reached at (414) 225-1825 or by email at [email protected]

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