Hooray! Hooray! I had the privilege of selecting 2 juries, for 2 different clients, in 2 different courthouses, recently. Usually, this would be nothing to write about, however, these jury selections were noteworthy due to the fact that they were the first, and second, jury selections for me since the world shut down in March of 2020 because of the pandemic. I was thrilled, absolutely thrilled, to be back in a courthouse, wearing a dark suit and high heels, carrying a briefcase, and providing help to my clients as they faced challenging lawsuits. Things almost seemed like they were back to normal. The water fountains in 1 courthouse were still turned off, but in the other one, they were working! I love water fountains! Sadly, the elevators were limited to 2 people in the first courthouse and 4 in the second, such that I did not have the experience of being stuffed inside a crowded elevator next to a sheriff’s deputy wearing a big gun on her belt. I look forward to the return of crowded elevators and the demise of social distancing. I don’t want to be socially distant; I enjoy being with people! Although both of the courthouses where I worked required face masks to be worn at all times, it was still great to see people’s smiling faces. I think the judges, attorneys, court personnel, and jurors were just as happy as I was to go someplace, to have important work to do, and to spend time with other human beings. Neither judge allowed the attorneys to approach the bench and 1 of the judges wore heavy rubber gloves while inside the courtroom, but overall, it was a welcome return to business for all of us. Keeping a trial consultant out of the courthouse is awful, particularly in my case as a person who truly loves spending time in courthouses (my dad’s office was located inside a courthouse and it always brings back fond memories when I am in a courthouse). I eagerly await the day when the elevators are crowded, all of the water fountains are dispensing cool water, and people’s smiles can be displayed again. But for now, it’s good to be back in a courthouse, any courthouse!
As the one who watches the business side of our business, it is great for Melissa to be back in the courthouse again. Non functioning courts have been terrible for our business as clients have had little perceived need or motivation to hire a trial consultant if there can be no trials. So, having trials “back to back” a week apart was a great sign that some sense of a return to normal was in the works. But, in reality, I think it was a sign that some sort of return to trials could wait no longer. With as many precautions as possible, the back log of cases had to start moving. For years, there has been talk of courts being backlogged. Now, a real backlog reared its ugly head in ways never anticipated. From Melissa and others, I hear what is being done in courthouses to reduce the risk. Some courts are being more cautious than others, and I suppose best practices will emerge. I also believe that normal, or what was, is gone permanently, never to return. It is hard to know which “minor details” have changed forever, like water fountains being permanently turned off or removed, but where touch free technologies can be employed, I suspect they will be. And, I expect greater thought will be put into the design of courtrooms, courthouses, and all public/commercial buildings to allow more “elbow room,” a.k.a. social distancing. How long the plexi glass will remain is anyone’s guess. Ameliorating the impact of a pandemic now falls to many more people than just those whose expertise is infectious diseases! Long term adjustments in design, security lines, and meeting spaces will find a new normal hopefully soon to allow a return to smiling faces and working water fountains.