Jury Trials During The COVID-19 Pandemic: A Guide For Courts And Lawyers

August 2020 by Steven W. Quattlebaum |

“Even during a global pandemic, it is vital to our democracy that our justice system function in a manner consistent with the principles upon which it was founded. This includes the resolution of civil disputes through the means of trial by jury…. As James Madison wrote in 1789, ‘Trial by jury in civil cases is as essential to secure the liberty of the people as any one of the preexistent rights of nature. ‘ ” The right to a trial by jury is deeply rooted in our society and one guaranteed by our Constitution for civil as well as criminal cases. “How are we going to have civil trials when we are in the midst of a global pandemic?” That was one of the questions pondered by judges and trial lawyers across the country as we struggled with the realities of stay-at-home orders, courthouse closures, and the safety considerations occasioned by the pandemic.

National President Luther Battiste of the American Board of Trial Advocates (“ABOTA”) recognized that ABOTA was well positioned to assist in the reopening of the courts for civil jury trials. President Battiste created the ABOTA COVID-19 Task force with the request that it draft a white paper to guide courts in the best practices for conducting civil jury trials during the pandemic. The task force consisted of 12 ABOTA members from around the country representing the plaintiff and defense bars and the judiciary and was assisted by three scientific experts to advise regarding the safety issues involved. I was privileged to serve as chair of the task force.

The above is an excerpt from an article appearing in the Summer 2020 edition of The Arkansas Lawyer, a publication of the Arkansas Bar Association. You may read the entire article below.


Steven W. Quattlebaum is a founding member of Quattlebaum, Grooms & Tull PLLC and his primary areas of practice are complex business, toxic tort, and products liability litigation. Steve is an ABOTA National Board Representative and chaired the ABOTA COVID-19 Task Force, which created the white paper, Guidance for Conducting Civil Jury Trials During the COVID-19 Pandemic. He can be reached at quattlebaum@QGTLAW.com.