The Justices of the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) solicit comments on recommendations of the Jury Management Advisory Committee (JMAC) regarding resumption of jury trials, which the SJC postponed in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The JMAC, a statutory committee made up of six judges, advises the SJC and the Jury Commissioner on issues relating to juries. The SJC asked the JMAC to provide recommendations on how to restart jury trials as the courts begin to reopen.
The JMAC made its recommendations in a comprehensive report to the Justices that balanced the need to resume jury trials with the need to protect the health and safety of jurors, litigants, lawyers, court personnel and the public. In developing its report, the JMAC consulted with public health experts, criminal and civil practitioners, court personnel, sheriffs, representatives of the Department of Corrections and others.
The report includes recommendations for a phased resumption of jury trials and for the practices to be conducted throughout all phases. It includes a recommendation that the SJC issue orders requiring juries of six in Superior Court civil cases, and reducing the number of peremptory challenges to the number required by statute. It also recommends that the jury commissioner be authorized to excuse jurors for COVID-19 related reasons. The recommendations reflect favorable Massachusetts health data as of the date of the report and recognize that if Massachusetts experiences a surge in COVID-19 cases, or a re-instatement of shutdown orders, corresponding adjustments will be necessary.
Before taking any action, the SJC seeks comments on the JMAC's report and recommendations. The report can be found at the link below. Comments should be directed to Christine Burak, Legal Counsel to the Chief Justice, at Christine.Burak@jud.state.ma.us on or before August 14, 2020. Added 8/12/20: Comments received will be made available to the public.