Jury trials — and jury duty — back on in NYC courts

Even in a pandemic, there’s still no getting out of jury duty in the city.

The state court system has summoned 4,600 city residents for jury duty as civil trials are set to begin Monday after a seven-month absence. Criminal jury trials are to start Oct. 26.

The trials will be limited to one or two per day in each borough to restrict in-court appearances, according to the Office of Court Administration spokesman Lucian Chalfen.

Normally, nine civil jury trials go on in the courts on a given day. Most cases settle before trial.

Potential jurors, who must wear masks, will be questioned about any exposure to COVID-19 at courthouse entrances and will have their temperature taken.

Seating in courtrooms will be distanced and some jurors may be placed outside the jury box. Face shields will be distributed to those who want them.

Plexiglass barriers have been set up in courtrooms around the judge’s bench, court reporter, witness stand and lawyers’ desks.

Whether potential jurors will seek to use coronavirus concerns as an excuse for dodging their service remains to be seen.

Residents have been called for grand jury duty in New York City since August and the response rates have been similar to what they were before the pandemic, Chalfen said.

Jury trials started last month outside of New York City and the court system said there had been few disruptions.

Chief Judge Janet DiFiore said in a video message Monday that the start of the trials “does not mean we have any intention of returning to the densely crowded courthouses of the pre-COVID era. To the contrary”

“We have been carefully and deliberately limiting the number of people entering our courthouses,” DiFiore said. “We are working around the clock to expand our virtual capacity in order to accommodate the demands for our services.”

In June, the state court officers’ union filed a federal lawsuit alleging the court system was not doing enough to keep workers safe from the coronavirus.

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