CLEVELAND — On Monday, jurors will start reporting back to the Global Center for Health Innovation in Downtown Cleveland for jury trials.
Jury trials were initially suspended for six months from the start of the COVID pandemic through Sept. 21. But in November, the court suspended cases again after a spike of COVID cases until they resumed on April 26.
Cuyahoga County Court Administrative Judge Brendan Sheehan says the court system has still been able to conduct bench trials, have pre-trial conferences, and conduct other court business, but the backlog of cases waiting to go to trial only grew during the pandemic.
“Everybody has a constitutional right to a trial by jury and as judges, we need jurors because cases are waiting to be tried and without the help of our jurors, we can’t even try a case, we can’t resolve cases,” said Sheehan.
The court says it is able to schedule more cases when jury trials resume Monday because many cases often settle when faced with the start of a jury trial.
“Your viewers should know that if you get a juror’s summons, they’re treated as the VIP in this building,” said Sheehan.
The Global Center for Health Innovation doubles the amount of space the County Courts can use for proceedings. Cuyahoga County is paying about $1.3 million from the CARES Act to the Huntington Convention Center to use the space. The county owns the building but the Convention Center has to pay many of the 200 employees it takes to make the building run.
COVID protocols are still in place but now Sheehan says jurors can simply call in each morning when they would normally have reported to jury duty to see if they have to come in at all. The process is something Sheehan says the court has been trying to implement for a while, and it keeps the crowd to a minimum. If jurors aren’t needed, they are free to go about their normal day.
The current agreement between the County and the Huntington Convention Center that allows the County Court to operate expires in June. The next step after that is not clear.
“We’re hoping that at the end of June we’re still able to keep using the global center,” said Sheehan. “If not, we’ll keep thinking. I always tell all the judges, ‘We’re out to sea, building a ship and we got to keep things doing.”
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