In March 2021, the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas (“PCCP”) released its Protocols and Guidelines for conducting in-person civil jury trials during the COVID-19 pandemic (the “Protocols”). To curb the spread of COVID-19, the Protocols outline several precautions, including mask requirements, enforced social distancing, reduced capacity, strategically placed Plexiglass, and the use of streaming technology. Now, over two months later, more Americans are fully vaccinated and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) recently stated that fully vaccinated individuals may forgo wearing masks indoors and outdoors. However, the Protocols currently remain intact. While the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania often has stated that it would follow the CDC’s most recent masking guidelines, Philadelphia has often been more restrictive than the rest of the state. Regardless, it remains unclear what impact the CDC’s guidelines will have on future civil jury trials in the PCCP. Therefore, when preparing for trial in the PCCP, attorneys must familiarize themselves with the Protocols. Below are highlights from the Protocols which attorneys should consider when preparing for trial in the PCCP.
Jury selection in California is undergoing significant change. In August 2020, the California legislature passed AB 3070, which was signed by Governor Gavin Newsome on September 30. Beginning in 2022, objections to peremptory challenges in criminal cases will have more teeth, including a list of presumptively invalid reasons for striking a prospective juror and a new standard of review for appellate review of a trial court’s decision. While AB 3070 does not apply officially to civil jury trials until 2026, the significant overhaul in procedure effectuated by this new law is likely to influence a court’s analysis of the civil jury selection process before that time. The new law’s aim is noble: to bring an end to discrimination in jury selection. However, critics, including many within the California judiciary, say the new procedure is “unworkable.”