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In mid-March 2020, a civil trial in Arizona’s federal district court was among the last before complete closure of the federal building due to the pandemic. The trial began before full quarantine restrictions imposed by the governor but concluded after courts officially closed. The ultimate result for the case: Plaintiff counsel calling to report, “We lost. Defense verdict.”

A week later, my co-counsel attended trial call in San Mateo. That our five-week trial would be interrupted by court closure and quarantine seemed all but definite. His voice was markedly tentative, “Even if we can get a jury, do we really want to try this case right now?” The uncertainties over how jurors navigating the pandemic might respond to a Plaintiff’s request for money damages made everyone edgy.

Every week thereafter, colleagues and consulting clients across the country reported trials bumped to late fall or 2021 as trial teams speculated about the future. What would become of jury trials? How would we find justice for our injured clients behind face shields, distancing protocols or virtual reality?

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