Jury Duty with COVID
Our legal system, has been on hold since March of 2020. You might be thinking wait but courts are in session. Yes, but jury duty hasn’t happened since March 2020.
If you live in Kootenai County you might have received a jury summons in the mail. In the jury summons there is a letter from the Chief Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court. The letter states that a potential juror much answer a supplemental questionnaire, that a health screening will happen when you report for jury duty, social distancing will be maintained, and face coverings are required. The letter never sites Idaho code that gives them the right to ask for your medical conditions or to require a mask.
The supplemental questionnaire asks COVID-19 related questions. Are you comfortable with giving personal medical information to the Idaho court system? If you are a health care worker or you are over 65 years of age, your jury duty can be postponed for a year. A question asking “has anyone in your house been sick in the last 14 days" is benign. Asking a person to list their medical conditions is not.
What if a person has a legitimate health condition where a mask is contradicted? Is there an exemption? Also, if wearing a mask is against ones religious beliefs - then will an exception be made? Or will potential jurors be discriminated again based on creed? If potential jurors are excluded from jury duty based on their inability to wear a mask, are the juries a true representation of the community?
It would be reasonable to expect that the courts in North Idaho would follow the Panhandle Health District’s mask mandate which has exceptions for health conditions, etc. It appears they are not.
What will happen to the potential jurors that will not wear a mask? Will they be given reasonable accommodation? Or will they be held in contempt of court? It will be interesting to see what happens in mid-March. If push comes to shove, it will be up to the Sheriff and the County Prosector to stand up for the rights of North Idaho residents.
When the Chief Justice of the Idaho Supreme Court says, “The right to trail by jury is one of the cornerstones of our democracy….”, there is reason to be concerned. We are a Constitutional Republic, not a democracy.