Wayne Co. court suspends jury service until August due to social distancing

Jury service for Wayne County Circuit Court is suspended until mid-August, forcing the delay of some trials as officials contemplate social distancing for jurors, the court's chief judge announced Monday.

Chief Judge Timothy Kenny said bench trials, those heard by a judge and not a jury, will begin June 1 while jury service is suspended until Aug. 17.

Discussions have been underway in the past weeks about how to safely impanel a jury and bring them into a courtroom while maintaining social distancing, said Kenny.

"The concern we have first and foremost is the issue of social distancing," said Kenny, noting how closely jurors sit next to each other in courtrooms and jury rooms. 

"The last thing we want to do is bring citizens in (for jury duty) and expose them to the virus," he said, adding that there are "hundreds" of cases waiting to be heard by a judge or jury following a state-wide backlog since the outbreak of the coronavirus and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's Stay Home/Stay Safe order. Courthouses moved, as ordered by  the Michigan Supreme Court, to restrict  court operations in order to maintain social distancing to help slow the spread of the virus.

Kenny said the issue of protecting the constitutional rights of defendants who have a right to physically be in a courtroom while also maintaining social distancing "must be balanced in the equation" in deciding how to conduct jury trials.

"Everything is subject to further logistics and decisions based on the (Michigan Supreme Court) and what the medical experts tell us to do," said Kenny.

Jurors who have received a jury summons or a postcard advising them to appear at the courthouse prior to Aug. 17 will not have to appear.  Their jury service will automatically be dismissed.  No additional action needs to be taken.  

The Wayne Circuit Court, like other courthouses in Michigan, continues to operate under a state of emergency under the Michigan Supreme Court’s Administrative Orders that keep jurors, court users and the public at home.  

Jurors who have questions or concerns about jury service can contact the Jury Service Department at (313) 224-2507, (313) 224-5650, or via email at juryservices@3rdcc.org.