Capital Area Trial Lawyer Association Jury Trial Update

 

 

It is the stated mission of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers to facilitate the exchange of knowledge and educate our community about the vital role of trial lawyers and jury trials.  Both the Constitution of the United States and the Texas Constitution guarantee the right to a trial by jury.   As noted by the Honorable Tom C. Clark, Texan and former justice of the United States Supreme Court, "The jury system improves the quality of justice and is the sole means of keeping its administration attuned to community standards."

 

To assist and provide guidance to the Travis County District and County Courts, Capital Area Trial Lawyers Association has compiled Recommendations for Conducting Jury Trials During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Download here.

 

As of July 8, 2020 the Travis County Civil District & County Court Judges published a Press Release detailing a pilot program for resuming jury trials via Zoom beginning in August 2020.  The pilot program will conduct jury selection and jury trials completely remote for civil lawsuits.  The pilot program is put together by the Office of Court Administration and the Austin Bar Association’s Jury Task Force.

 

https://www.austinbar.org/2020/07/civil-courts-remote-jury-trial-pilot-program/

 

If you missed the July 16th webcast, you can download the PowerPoint presentation here.

 

If you missed the July 27th webcast, you can download the ABA Resource Guide - Nuts and Bolts Virtual Jury Trial and Nuts and Bolts of a Remote Jury Trial.

 

CATLA urges caution, as we also recognize that we are about to embark on perhaps the most significant changes to how civil cases are tried to a jury that have been made in hundreds of years.  When we move forward, we must be able to do so courageously, with the confidence that we have taken all reasonable viewpoints and available information into account. 

If we fail to take these viewpoints and information into account, we run afoul of the timeless guidance by one of our founding fathers, often referred to “father of the Bill of Rights,” who warned:

 

That in controversies respecting property, and in suits between man and man, the ancient trial by jury is preferable to any other, and ought to be held sacred.” George Mason

 

Regardless of whether it is a traditional in-person jury trial, a virtual jury trial or any other modified jury trial the below issues should be considered for each.  The 7th Amendment mandate of an impartial jury that reflects a fair cross section of the community presents unique challenges in the context of modifying traditional in-person jury trials.  These challenges include equal access to technology, lack of human-to-human authenticity in a virtual process and personal safety concerns.  Overall, we believe that all viable solutions should be considered based upon objectively verifiable data. 

 

CATLA is dedicated to providing open communication regarding the Travis County Pilot Program for virtual jury trials, and will continue to update this webpage as information is released.