Collaboration and creativity cited as accelerants to progress
Vermont Judiciary officials are planning on restarting in-person jury trials in the state courthouse in Newport, beginning with jury selection on January 24th and with trials to begin later in the week. The January trial date will be followed by trial dates to be set in February and March. The Judiciary will prioritize in-person criminal jury trials for defendants who are detained.
The resumption of jury trials is the result of significant efforts on the part of local court staff and Judiciary leadership from Montpelier, who have been working with officials at the Department of Buildings and General Services (BGS) to find a way to provide sufficient ventilation in this historic circa 1900 building. Poor ventilation is particularly problematic when instituting emergency measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and is one of a number of issues the Judiciary has had to address in its efforts to restart in-person jury trials in the courthouse.
“Our plan is to install a heating coil into an existing ventilation system, which will provide us with the ability to heat ventilated air so that jurors and other parties involved in a jury trial can safely and comfortably assemble,” said State Court Administrator Patricia Gabel, who noted a range of options were considered by those involved in the planning.
“Our local court staff in Orleans County, like Judiciary staff throughout the state, have been resourceful and committed to providing justice during these difficult times, and we are very grateful for their commitment and their efforts. We are also appreciative of the cooperation we have received from BGS. Staff there have been very helpful to us in our efforts to find solutions to ventilation-related problems in our state buildings,” Gabel said.
The installation of the new equipment is scheduled for mid-December.