New York has a backlog of 39,000 cases. Georgia is closing courts and Minnesota has judges and their staff quarantining due to infections. With immense uncertainty about whether our justice system will come to a grinding halt, the Online Courtroom Project has demonstrated in a new report how online trials can provide a solution to get our nation’s trial system up and running.
On June 26th and 27th, the OCP conducted a two-day demonstration trial complete with jury summons and questionnaires, jury selection, opening statements, direct and cross examination of witnesses, closing arguments, and jury deliberations, all online. The extensive report and recordings of the demonstration trial are now available to help courts and the legal profession better prepare and perform in online trials.
According to a national poll by the National Center for State Courts, only 23% of citizens would favor coming to court to sit as a juror while at least twice that would favor sitting as jurors in an online trial. As the new report outlines, jurors were not only comfortable sitting through an online trial, they found witness testimony easier to judge and deliberations easy to manage.
The report is designed to be user’s guide, identifying potential problems and outlining recommendations and issues the court and attorneys should consider when undertaking online trial proceedings, in part or in whole. It also outlines efficiencies that can save the court, attorneys, and jurors both time and money and provides options to courts that don’t feel they can safely hold trials in person.
Founded by Richard Gabriel of Decision Analysis in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Online Courtroom Project (“OCP”) is an advisory task force comprised of judges, lawyers, consultants and researchers who believe that parties have the Constitutional right to a trial and the justice system needs to embrace innovation and technology to maintain those rights in a time of crisis.
“The courts cannot simply take six months or a year off from jury trials. As long as the Coronavirus pandemic makes assembling people in a courtroom a potential threat to public safety and parties to a lawsuit have the right to demand a jury trial, the courts will inevitably have to move these proceedings, in part or in whole online. We hope this report is a helpful resource for the entire legal field in that process,” said Richard Gabriel.