California Judges Seek Early Vaccination Status
The California Judges Association (CJA) is urging Governor Gavin Newsom to ensure that employees and members of the judiciary will "not be far behind" in regard to vaccinating essential workers. In its letter to the governor, the group stated, "CJA's request that court employees and judicial officers be considered a priority for vaccine distribution is simply due to the essential nature of the work of our courts and the unavoidable contact we have with both our multiple constituents, who have a constitutional right to access our services, and our many justice partners and stakeholders, who themselves utilize and or support those services.”
Does a Defendant’s Constitutional Right to Be Present at His Jury Trial Include Bench Conferences?
The Georgia Supreme Court in Nesby v. State says no. The court distinguished between a defendant’s presence during jury selection and his presence at bench conferences and stated:
[A] defendant's presence at bench conferences that deal with questions of law and consist of “essentially legal argument about which the defendant presumably has no knowledge,” or those that deal with logistical and procedural matters, “bears no relation, reasonably substantial, to the fullness of his opportunity to defend against the charge[.]” (Citations and punctuation omitted.) “[T]he constitutional right to be present does not extend to situations where the defendant's presence would be useless, or the benefit but a shadow.” (Citation and punctuation omitted.) Thus, a defendant's absence from such bench conferences does not violate his right to be present.
Georgia Shooters of Ahmaud Arbery Want Jury Shielded from Their Jailhouse Conversations
ABC News in Jacksonville broadcast the recorded conversations of Travis and Gregory McMichael, the father and son charged with murdering a Black jogger in Glynn County. The defendants want the post-shooting recordings excluded from their jury trial based upon their allegedly prejudicial nature. The accused also want the trial judge to only allow one video of the victim while he was still alive to be shown to the jury.
Connecticut Jury Selection Task Force Issues Its Final Report
After a year of hard work, the state supreme court’s task force on December 31 published a report addressing topics related to eradicating racial bias from the jury selection process in Connecticut. The report concluded that peremptory strikes should not be eliminated or reduced in number. Relatedly, the task force rejected a proposal to change current practice whereby trial judges do not preside over voir dire in civil cases. Noteworthy too, the task force addressed many other issues that go beyond jury selection.
Civil Jury Trials Expand in Argentina
Last month the Chaco Province legislature adopted Civil Jury Act 3325-B to establish innovations for the conduct of civil jury trials, including (1) mandating public, 12-person civil trials; (2) establishing jurisdictional limits (class actions, consumer rights collective disputes, tort cases of over half a million pesos and collective environmental and land disputes); (3) as was common for criminal trials, requiring civil juries to have gender equality (six women and six men); (4) promoting participation of indigenous peoples (if the plaintiff and the defendant belong to the Wichí, Moqoit or Qom peoples, the twelve jurors must be of that ethnic group); and (5) providing both a discovery hearing and a case management hearing.