Jury trials will soon resume in Polk County with jurors being called to report starting at the end of September. Jury summons are being mailed this week and will likely begin appearing in mailboxes as soon as Friday.
“Jury duty is one of the most important tasks that a citizen can perform to ensure our free society,” said Clerk Stacy Butterfield, Polk County Clerk of the Circuit Court & Comptroller. “Jury participation is crucial for restoring court services and ensuring access to justice. The entire court system is taking safe steps to protect jurors’ health and serve them safely. Working together, we can safely ensure access to justice for everyone.”
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns for public safety, in March, the Florida Supreme Court and the Chief Judge for the 10th Judicial Circuit suspended all jury trials.
The courts set guidelines and criteria for the reopening of courthouses throughout the state. The 10th Judicial Circuit has now transitioned into Phase 2 of the reopening process, which permits the resumption of jury trials.
Clerk Butterfield and the 10th Judicial Circuit have placed the safety of staff and residents as a top priority. In order to transition into Phase 2, strict safety measures had to be met. Safety protocols include social distancing, continuous sanitization of public spaces, hand sanitizer stations, the wearing of face masks, and undergoing temperature checks and a verbal screening for entry into the building. The Clerk’s office is also developing a new app that is being used to further protect jurors and provide for a limited-touch check-in process.
In addition to the standard excusal and postponement request criteria, the courts have added additional criteria specifically for COVID-19 matters.
COVID-19 related excusal request criteria include, a potential juror who indicates he or she does not meet the court’s screening requirements for courthouse entry; a person at higher risk for severe illness due to COVID-19 infection; a person who must care for a child or relative whose regular care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19; or a person who is receiving leave pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
COVID-19 related postponement request criteria include, an individual who recently returned to work after being unemployed due to COVID-19, or an individual who has suffered a financial or personal loss due to COVID-19 that makes it a hardship to perform jury service.
The new juror app, which is set to launch in the coming week, and additional jury information is available on our Juror page or contact 863-534-4000.