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Judge Antonia “Toni” Arteaga of the 57th Civil District Court in Bexar County, Texas, swears in a jury pool for virtual jury selection on Aug. 19.

As the country began a phased reopening of state economies and local businesses after coronavirus shutdowns, courts began to consider how to lift pandemic jury trial restrictions and resume jury trials. The federal court COVID-19 Judicial Task Force, as well as many state court study groups, issued comprehensive recommendations on how to best recommence jury trials in their courts. While some states, such as California, have authorized courts to restart in-person jury trials with social-distancing measures, other states, such as North Carolina, still have active suspensions on jury trials. In Florida and New Jersey, courts are testing virtual jury trials, remote grand jury proceedings, and hybrid trials with virtual jury selection and in-person trials.

Whether a trial is in person with social distancing, completely virtual, or a combination of both, trial attorneys will encounter new challenges in jury selection. These challenges include learning to evaluate nonverbal communication when prospective jurors are wearing masks or appearing on a video call, selecting jurors from smaller pools, and adjusting to fewer peremptory strikes. Courts may also place limitations on voir dire to ensure juror privacy during virtual selection.

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