Jury trials to resume in Maryland on April 26th
SALISBURY, Md. – Across the state of Maryland, courts are getting ready to welcome jurors back into the court rooms on Monday. It’s going to be a busy several months for court houses across the state, especially in Wicomico County.
Administrative Judge for Wicomico County Circuit Court Jimmy Sarbanes says they have about 600 cases to get through. He adds the court is scheduling out some civil cases as far as Summer of 2023. “Those are cases that we just have to schedule now. That doesn’t include all the cases that have been scheduled that are awaiting trial,” said Judge Sarbanes.
For now, the focus is on making sure everything is in place once jury trials resume on April 26th. That includes spacing out jurors’ seats along the left side of the court room, instead of keeping them inside the jury box. Plus, all plaintiffs, defendants, jurors, attorneys, judges, and court house personnel will have to pass a health screening before they’re allowed inside the building. “There’s a mask requirement anywhere that you’re in the circuit court building, as well as social distancing, and we’re sanitizing the court rooms as much as we can. It’s at least once a day, sometimes more,” said Judge Sarbanes.
But the preparations extend beyond the court house. Judge Sarbanes says the court has been working with the Wicomico County Sheriff’s Office and the county’s Youth and Civic Center to set up the jury selection process over there. “When we’re picking the juries, usually we have to bring in anywhere from 50 to 110 jurors in order to pick a jury, depending on the type of trial it is. We don’t have a space large enough at the circuit court to be able to bring in that many people and keep them socially distanced,” said Judge Sarbanes. “We’ll be using the Flanders Room at the Civic Center to conduct the voir dire. Once they’re picked, then they’ll come back to the circuit court for the trial. We were able to seat seven juries in October and November using the Flanders Room.”
Judge Sarbanes also tells 47ABC that they’re going to be prioritizing the cases that were put on hold when the jury trials were shut down. He says some of the first cases will include ones that have defendants who are waiting for trial in jail. Then, they’ll move to criminal cases for non-incarcerated people, then civil cases.
Judge Sarbanes says he hopes people will remain patient if they’re called for jury duty, as the court is getting those trials started again. “While we understand that people don’t like to come in for jury duty, we do appreciate their patience as we’re trying to work through this. It is a different process and procedure for us in the court. There’s a lot of technology involved to be able to things off site, then get people back here,” said Judge Sarbanes.