King County Superior Court says it’s ready to resume jury trials this month — but in a drastically altered format, as a result of the pandemic.
The court halted all jury trials in early March. In an announcement Thursday it said there’s a backlog of 800 criminal trials and “countless” civil trials.
Among the key changes is that the Meydenbauer Center, an event space and theater in Bellevue, has been enlisted as a temporary courthouse to provide more space for social distancing.
Court spokeswoman Amy Roe wrote that jurors will no longer report for jury duty in groups, but will complete an orientation and answer case-specific questionnaires online. Jury selection will be done largely by video conference.
Jurors will report for trial in person, with face masks required, once they’re selected. Facilities staff have upgraded ventilation in trial spaces on the advice of experts from the University of Washington, and Plexiglas barriers have been added to the judge’s bench.
Presiding Judge Jim Rogers said the changes are designed to ensure the right to a jury trial while also protecting public health.
Pierce County Superior Court has also resumed jury trials under social-distancing measures.