comscore Kokua Line: Some readers fear being in jury pool raises risk of catching COVID-19 | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Hawaii News | Kokua Line

Kokua Line: Some readers fear being in jury pool raises risk of catching COVID-19

Question: Why are they sending out juror surveys? Aren’t the courts closed? Is this a scam?

Q: I got a notice for jury duty but I thought they weren’t doing that because of COVID-19. Please find out about this.

Answer: Numerous readers are asking about juror questionnaires or notices of potential jury service in Hawaii’s state court system. The examples described to us were legitimate. It was the timing that threw people off, arriving in mailboxes around the same time it was announced that jury trials in state courts would be pushed back again, due to the pandemic.

The first reader received a Hawaii State Judiciary juror questionnaire, about 235,000 of which were mailed statewide last Monday. These questionnaires go out every August, to build a jury pool for the following year. So even though there are no state juries being selected now, recipients do need to complete the questionnaire, for use in 2021, said Jan Kagehiro, spokeswoman for the Hawaii State Judiciary.

It was mailed statewide to individuals selected at random from Hawaii’s voter registration or driver’s license rolls. About 85,000 were mailed to Oahu residents, 55,000 in Maui County, 70,000 on Hawaii island and 25,000 on Kauai, according to a Judiciary news release.

Recipients have 10 days to complete and return it to the Jury Pool Office in the envelope provided.

The second reader received a “pre-service survey” from 1st Circuit Court on Oahu, not an actual summons to jury duty.

The 1st Circuit mailed these surveys to 500 prospective jurors on July 29 to collect preliminary information about their ability to serve, Kagehiro said.

“For example, one possible reason a person might not be available to serve would be if they have significant concerns about COVID-19 due to their age (65+) or pre-existing medical condition. (Documents from their physician would be required),” Kagehiro said in an email.

When these notices were mailed, jury trials in state courts were expected to resume in September. However, that’s been pushed back to October, per an order Wednesday from Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald.

Anyone who received the pre-service survey should fill it out and return it, despite the postponement, as responses will help the court system prepare for resumption of jury selection, Kagehiro said. “Our goal is to ensure the health and safety of prospective jurors, along with other court users,” she said.

Several readers who asked about these mailers mentioned being worried about sitting in close quarters with other people during jury selection, and, if they were selected to serve, during the trial itself. They were afraid they’d catch COVID-19.

The Judiciary says on its website that the state Department of Health “is in varying stages of reviewing and approving the circuit courts’ health-and-safety plans to resume jury selection and jury trials.”

The plan includes touchless temperature scans and COVID-19 screening questions before entering a courthouse; required face coverings; enforced physical distancing measures; and increased cleaning and disinfecting of Judiciary facilities, it said.

Mahalo

While walking toward our car in Kailua, my husband lost his balance and slowly fell to the ground. I could not manage to get him to stand up by myself. As I struggled to get him up, our daughter’s neighbor, Melissa, ran from across the street and came to my aid. Together we were able to get him up and into the car. I also noticed someone in a truck who had stopped on the side of the road. It is a wonderful feeling to know that we have a lot of “good Samaritans” who were quick and willing to come to our aid. A big mahalo to Melissa and the driver of the truck! — Two grateful senior citizens


Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; fax 529-4750; or email kokualine@staradvertiser.com.


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