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The Western Judicial Circuit expects in-person jury trials to resume in March. (Photo/Gabriella Audi, www.gabbyaudi10.wixsite.com/mysite-1)

The Western Judicial Circuit, which includes courts in Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties, expects in-person jury trials to resume in March, with juror summons expected to be sent out by the end of February, according to a press release from the circuit.

Georgia’s jury trials have been suspended since March 2020, when the chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court declared a statewide judicial emergency due to the pandemic. The Western Judicial Circuit expects the next extension of this emergency, set for March 9, to authorize jury trials to resume as local conditions allow, according to the release.

The circuit’s local committee has identified the Classic Center as a safe alternative location for ACC jury selection and trials to resume. For Oconee County, the committee identified the Oconee County Civic Center as a location for jury assembly, but trials will still occur at the Oconee County Courthouse with social distancing enforced, according to the release.

To protect prospective jurors, the circuit is enforcing safety protocols including temperature checks, mask requirements and social distancing, as well as pre-screenings for COVID-19.

Chief Superior Court Judge Eric W. Norris asked residents to respond to summons for when trials resume.

“We’re urging all residents to respond to the summons to be a juror, because the right to a trial by jury is fundamental to the American system of justice,” Norris said in the release.