California Legislature Approves Bill Changing Evidentiary Standards in Batson Challenge Hearings

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California Legislature Approves Bill Changing Evidentiary Standards in Batson Challenge Hearings

Governor Gavin Newsom will decide whether to approve or veto new legislation that, among other things, would change the criteria by which a judge decides whether a peremptory strike is unlawful.  Specifically, whenever a Batson hearing reaches the final step where a judge must weigh the final arguments of opposing parties, the bill provides that the court must determine if there is a substantial likelihood that an objectively reasonable person would “view race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, or religious affiliation, or perceived membership in any of those groups, as a factor in the use of the peremptory challenge.”  Before the legislature’s recent final action, California Supreme Court Associate Justice Goodwin Liu testified about the bill’s content and existing peremptory challenge procedures.

Jury Instruction During Online Trial: “No Dogs or Cats in the Room!”

As a weeks-long online jury trial moved to final deliberations this week, Alameda Superior Court Judge Jo-Lynne Lee instructed the jury that "generally, you must conduct yourself as if you're in court."  She said no juror can be excused "even momentarily to do any other work or activity while jurors are deliberating," and that no other person may be in the deliberation space "because you can't have anyone listening in on discussions." She added that caring for pets during deliberations is also prohibited.

“Can You Get a Fair Jury Trial During the Pandemic?”

That is the title of Cara Bayles’s article in Law 360 this week.  The author interviewed a judge, lawyers, researchers, and members of the legal academy regarding whether litigants can receive a representative jury panel when so many citizens cannot or will not serve on a jury due to stay-at-home orders, limited access to broadband internet service, or personal fear of going to a public courthouse.  Interestingly, both prosecutors and defense attorneys worry that the conduct of trials during the pandemic could lead to an uptick in appeals.  Nina Ginsberg, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, opined, "Anyone who gets a trial that is constitutionally deficient is going to end up appealing if they're convicted.  They'll have a whole other level of constitutional claims that are going to end up getting litigated."

Texas Shares Lessons Learned from Conducting Jury Trials During Pandemic

Since the pandemic struck, Texas has conducted 22 jury trials with dozens more scheduled between now and the end of September.   Earlier this week, the Office of Court Administration released its report on Jury Trials During the COVID-19 Pandemic as required by the Supreme Court of Texas’s Twenty-Second Emergency Order Regarding the COVID-19 State of Disaster. The report sets forth observations from jury trials held since March 2020, including details from the nation’s first virtual criminal jury trial.  The report also contains several informative photographs of logistical setups for those trials.

Lawyers Will Replace Cowboys at Calgary Stampede Grounds. Reason? Jury Selection!

To afford sufficient social distancing for a jury trial, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench ordered voir dire to take place at the Big Four events building and the rodeo grandstand later this month.  Your editor hopes there will be some entertaining tales generated by trial participants.