Douglas County District Attorney Suzanne Valdez has launched an online survey to gauge how the public feels about in-person court hearings and jury trials amid record numbers of COVID-19 cases.
“While the DA’s Office does not have the authority to suspend in-person hearings, Valdez said she would like to gather input as to whether members of the public would feel safe serving on juries, testifying or otherwise participating in the legal process,” a news release from her office states.
The six-question online survey asks those answering to rate how comfortable they feel conducting business in the courthouse, sitting in a jury pool and participating in in-person hearings while Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health’s community transmission indicator is in the red zone.
“This office exists to ensure the safety of our community,” Valdez said in the release. “Part of that has to include consideration of whether it is safe to require members of the public to appear in person as part of the criminal justice system. After all, people who have been summoned do not have an option of whether or not to appear.”
“I feel a duty, as an elected official, to be sure I am listening to the people of Douglas County. I also have an obligation to the people who work for me to ensure they are not put in a position where they have to decide between the health of themselves and their families and their jobs.”
The survey is available at this link. It will be online through 5 p.m. Monday, according to DA’s office spokesperson Jill Jess.
Earlier in the pandemic, the Douglas County District Court implemented plans to hold jury trials at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, where potential jurors could be seated far enough apart for safe social distancing during jury selection. Valdez has previously expressed concerns with that plan, but at least one jury trial has been held at the Flory Meeting Hall since she took office in January 2021.
As of Thursday, the court’s calendar showed several cases set for jury trials this month, including two set to begin Monday.