A new report from a group of judges and lawyers tasked with examining the issues confronting federal courts as they look to resume jury trials during the global pandemic illustrates just how many novel and confounding questions COVID-19 has raised for the judiciary.

The 16-page report from the jury subgroup of the federal judiciary’s COVID-19 Judicial Task Force, titled “Conducting Jury Trials and Convening Grand Juries During the Pandemic,” highlights the difficulty of bringing groups of people together into confined indoor spaces during a pandemic when public health officials have urged avoiding those settings when unnecessary. The report from the outset notes that its guidelines are only suggestions and that each nation’s 94 trial courts will have to chart its own path forward. And it flags issues that range from the practical and previously unthinkable, such as having cleaning personnel continuously wipe down the handrails of courthouse stairwells due to limitations on elevator capacity, to potential adaptations that might raise constitutional issues, such as witnesses seeking to testify remotely despite defendants’ Confrontation Clause rights.

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