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Federal Jury Trials and COVID-19



April 20, 2020
This Insight provides information and analysis related to federal jury trials and how such trials have been
impacted by Coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19. Given the rapidly changing situation surrounding
COVID-19, the information provided in this Insight may be superseded by new information that differs
from what is described in the text below. If there are any questions regarding whether such changes have
occurred, congressional staff may contact the author of this Insight.

Background
The Jir, Sclection and Senilce Act of J968 specifies the qualifications a person must meet in order to
serve on a federal jury. Specificai; an individual must be a United States citizen; be at least 18 years of
age; reside primarily for one year in the judicial district where he or she has been summoned to federal
jury service; be adequately proficient in English to satisfactorily complete the juror qualification form;
have no disqualifying mental or physical condition; not currently be subject to felony charges punishable
by imprisonment for more than one year; and never have been convicted of a felony (unless his or her
civil rights have been legally restored).
Each U.S. district court is responsible for summonmg eligible inchviduas xsithin its distict for jury
service. The type of jury addressed by this Insight is a trial jun, also known as a petit jury. Such federal
juries consist of 6 to 12 people and decide, in a criminal case, whether the defendant committed the crime
as charged or, in a civil case, whether the defendant injured the plaintiff

Court Orders Postponing Jury Trials
During the COVID-19 national emergency, most U.S. district courts have postponod, or continued, civil
and criminal jury trials. Such a continuance is announced by court order and signed by the chief judge of
the district court. A court's order typically includes the specific time period for which jury trials are
continued and is often posted on the court's website.
The order often provides an explanation as to why the court decided to postpone jury trials. Examples
from recent court orders include the following:
    * District of Alaska (March 30, 2020): The court found that criminal jury trials are
        currently impractical because petit juries ... are drawn from disparate, often remote,
        communities throughout [Alaska], which may require some jurors to travel to Anchorage

                                                                   Congressional Research Service
                                                                     https://crsreports.congress.gov
                                                                                         IN11346

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