Courtrooms to resume in-person jury trials

Jury summons will begin going out through the mail in anticipation of resuming in-person jury trials.
Updated: May. 12, 2021 at 10:50 PM CDT
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LAREDO, Tex. (KGNS) - Federal and state judges in Webb County are facing a backlog of civil and criminal jury trials as a result of the pandemic, but after a year of virtual court, they are preparing to resume in person.

Court proceedings have taken place over Zoom, but that will soon change.

Anyone entering the courtroom can expect COVID-19 precautions to be in place.

Federal and state judges in Webb County will now be able to say that in person within the next two weeks.

Jury summons will begin going out through the mail in anticipation of resuming in-person jury trials.

”We are all anxious to get back into the courtroom, simply because for many people, virtual hearings have become very difficult, especially for elderly participants,” said Judge Monica Zapata Notzon. “They have a difficult time logging on and understanding the process.”

Virtual trials presented challenges aside from internet access.

District Judge for the 111th District Monica Zapata Notzon presided over a few virtual civil trials.

“There is a difficulty in exchanging evidence when you’re doing things virtually. There’s difficulty handling exhibits. The process can become complicated for litigants.”

State and federal judges, including U.S. Magistrate Judge John Kazen, now have a backlog of cases.

”Unfortunately there weren’t things we were able to do like have jury trials,” said Kazen. “Those jury trials just have not been conducted, so we have criminal defendants and their parties who have not been able to have their day in court for trials.”

COVID-19 precautions will be in place, from seat dividers to social distancing, face masks, face shields, gloves and hand sanitizer.

Pre-screening questions will take place over the phone.

”I’m asking the court to squash the indictment, sanction the government.”

The judges want residents to know that if they receive a jury summons in the mail, and if they receive a call about it, it is legitimate.

Anyone who doesn’t show up for jury duty, without providing a good reason, can face a fine of up to $1,000, no more than three days in jail, or community service.

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