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In-person jury trials to resume in Lucas County next week

Judge: Some virtual proceedings may be here to stay after pandemic fades
Published: Feb. 24, 2021 at 10:19 PM EST
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Things don’t always go as planned in courtrooms these days. Courtrooms aren’t immune from technical difficulties like muted microphones and connection issues.

“We’ve had a little bit of everything when it comes to mishaps,” said Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Michael Goulding.

Lucas County judges have conducted proceedings virtually throughout the pandemic. Incarcerated defendants stay at the jail and connect via Zoom on an officer’s cell phone. The court recorder works from home.

But many of the court functions are still accomplished.

“We have not come to a stand-still. The work is still getting done,” Goulding said. “That subset of work that requires jurors and members of the public to come in, we’ve been a little bit held back.”

Lucas County courtrooms haven’t had in-person jury trials since October.

But after Health Department inspections and as cases decline, they’re set to resume Monday. Courts will now work to play catch-up on a months-long backlog of cases.

“We’ll work as fast as we can, as efficiently as we can, to get caught up on our trial backlog. On the criminal end, I hope we can do it in a few months.”

Civil trials will have to wait until the court catches up on criminal trials.

Even with plexiglass in place and hand sanitizer bottles in the jury box, Judge Goulding says many functions of the court could stay virtual in the post-pandemic era.

He says he can carry out many of those duties with attorneys virtually, which ultimately could make the court system more efficient.

But some things, like jury trials, won’t happen through a screen.

“I think the pandemic has forced us to be more efficient in certain ways, with using remote technology to bring in attorneys, witnesses, clients, plaintiffs, defendants,” Goulding said. “I think that’s probably going to be here to stay in some part. But there are some things you just have to be in court, in person, to do for us to do our job properly.”

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