Hennepin/Ramsey civil mock jury trial project announced for March 26

Civil trial by Zoom jury?  Counsel, you may proceed!  

[Editor's note: The MSBA received this news release from the office of Judge Edward Wahl on March 9.]

Minnesota courts are working on new ways to handle civil cases during the Covid lockdown.

Civil judges and court staff in Hennepin and Ramsey Counties are collaborating with civil lawyers, experts, and jurors to present a civil mock jury trial that is designed to test remote court technology and lawyer advocacy. This project is part of a pilot program authorized by the Minnesota Judicial Council.

On March 26, 2021, lawyers will try a mock accident case remotely to groups of jurors in a courtroom and in their homes. The trial will feature all the components of a typical civil jury trial—jury selection, openings, direct- and cross-examination, evidence, objections, bench conferences, closings, jury instructions, deliberation and verdict.

The difference for this case is that everyone--lawyers, witnesses, jurors, judge, court reporters, and court staff--will participate remotely by Zoom. One set of jurors will hear the case separately, in their homes. The other set of jurors will gather together in a courtroom, but apart from lawyers, witnesses, and judge.

The judges expect that this mock trial will demonstrate that civil jury trials can be handled effectively and efficiently by Zoom.  This innovation will help clear any backlogs in civil dockets around the state, it will enhance settlement discussions in existing cases, and it will extend innovations in remote advocacy that we have all developed over the past year.