PRINCETON — Prospective Mercer County jurors are doing their court orientation online instead of appearing this month at the Mercer County Courthouse.

Letters have been sent to prospective jurors informing them that this month’s juror orientation at the courthouse has been canceled.

“You do not need to appear as summonsed on July 14, 2020,” Clerk of the Court Julie Ball said in the letter. “For orientation and introduction of how your jury service will work, please log on to www.mercerwvcircuitcourt.org. Go to Jury Duty, under Jury Information click Petit Jury Orientation and view the video.”

The state Supreme Court of Appeals issued guidance to county circuit courts last June for jury management during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Ultimately, it is still the responsibility of the circuit clerk and responsible circuit judge to manage the jury pool appropriately,” said Lisa A. Tackett, director of court services. “This guidance document is not intended to supplant that responsibility; instead, the goal is to provide services and concepts that may be helpful to allow the court system to remain open while striving to protect the health and safety of court and county employees, litigants, witnesses, jurors, attorneys and the public.”

The state Supreme Court is encouraging judges to use existing court space as much as possible, including larger historic courtrooms or sharing larger courtrooms with other judges. If no suitable spaces exist, courts may consider alternative spaces in the community such as schools, civic centers, colleges or universities.

Courts can consider undue hardship cases under the Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidance for people facing a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. These categories can include people 65 years or older, people with underlying medical conditions such as heart ailments or diabetes.

“It is up to the clerk and responsible judge to determine the standards for which disqualifications or excuses may be granted and whether requests are, for example, automatic or subject to individual review,” Tackett said. “A judge may require a doctor’s note or supplemental information, and the sufficiency of the documentation in support could be weighed as a factor in deciding whether to grant or deny an excuse.”

Petit jurors with questions can call 304-487-8393 or send an email to Michele.Shumate@courtswv.gov.

— Contact Greg Jordan at gjordan@bdtonline.com

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