Jury trials will begin again in the Thirty-third Judicial Circuit.

Presiding Judge William Filmore said that the circuit, comprised of Dale and Geneva Counties, will resume Sept. 14. 

Jurors will be summoned to appear at the Ozark Civic Center at 320 East College Street in Ozark Sept. 11 for qualifications and jury voir dire. Necessary safety precautions will be taken such as masks and hand sanitizer. 

“We are encouraging jurors to go to the website for Dale County court—https://dale.alacourt.gov, said Thirty-third Judicial Circuit Clerk Delores Woodham. “The website has a Covid-19 juror questionnaire for potential jurors.”

Woodham may be contacted at (334)774-5003 or delores.woodham@alacourt.gov.

“If you received a summons for the week of jury trials beginning on Sept. 14—unless you are excused—come to the Ozark Civic Center Sept. 11 at 9 a.m. for jury selection,” Woodham said. “The Ozark Civic Center has been designated as a temporary courthouse annex.

“Enter through the front doors of the civic center to check in with representatives of the Circuit Clerk’s Office,” Woodham added. “Everyone will be required to wear a mask. We ask that you bring your own mask, but if you do not have one, you will be issued one when you check in.”

Prospective jurors are asked to call or e-mail the designated person/number on their jury summons to discuss rescheduling their jury service if they are experiencing flu like systems, have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 30 days, have been directed to quarantine by a medical authority or employer or are a caregiver for or had close contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 30 days.

Woodham said that upon arriving at Courtroom No. 1 on the third floor of the Dale County Courthouse, jurors will be seated in the gallery closest to the courtroom doors and any non-jurors will be seated on the right side. “While trials are ‘open’ to the public, it is suggested that mere ‘observers’ be kept to a minimum to lessen traffic and exposure to all who enter the courthouse.

“Any person in attendance will be required to observe social distancing and wear a mask for the duration of the trial,” Woodham added. “Contact between non-jurors and the jury will not be tolerated.”

Jury trials in the state of Alabama were halted effective March 16 after a majority decision of the Alabama Supreme Court granted presiding circuit judges the authority to suspend jury trials completely or on a case by case basis due to the growing COVID-19 pandemic threat.

The next day an administrative order was issued by the Alabama Supreme Court declaring a state of emergency for the entire judicial branch and suspending all in-person court proceedings for the next 30 days, citing the declaration of a national state of emergency by the United States President and a state of emergency declared by Gov. Kay Ivey as the pandemic spread.”

Under the administrative order, exceptions to the suspension of in-person court proceedings included, proceedings necessary to protect constitutional rights of criminal defendants, including bond-related matters and plea agreements for incarcerated individuals; civil and criminal jury trials already in progress as of March 13; proceedings related to protection from abuse; proceedings related to emergency child custody and protection orders; Department of Human Resources emergency matters related to child protection; proceedings related to emergency mental health orders; proceedings related to emergency protection of elderly or vulnerable persons; proceedings directly related to the COVID-19 public health emergency; and any emergent proceeding as needed by law enforcement.

Under the administrative order, the presiding circuit judge had the authority to determine how the in-person court proceedings would be conducted using technology, to include electronic filing, teleconferencing and videoconferencing. “Judges are charged with the responsibility of ensuring that core constitutional functions and rights are protected,” the Alabama Supreme Court Administrative Order stated. “Additionally, court clerks are charged with ensuring that court functions continue.”

After Ivey amended the “Safer at Home Order” on May 8, the Alabama Supreme Court again extended the state of emergency for the judicial branch and set Sept. 14 as the date for jury trial resumption.

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