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More Utahns could be called in for jury duty this year

Courts are starting to work through a backlog of trials after many were delayed because of the pandemic.

(Scott Sommerdorf | Tribune file photo) The Matheson Courthouse is photographed in 2016. Utah has started working through its backlog of trials that piled up during the pandemic.

A jury summons could be delivered to your mailbox soon, as the state starts working through its backlog of trials that piled up during the pandemic.

Trials slowed down in the past year because of COVID-19. Because of the health precautions courts took, fewer courtrooms were available and the trials that did take place took longer, FOX 13 reports.

Normally, the state holds 1,200 trials in a year, about 350 of which involve juries. But this year, the state expects to hold 1,500 trials.

“We are all going to have to continue the number of trials we’ve got and would normally have scheduled in 2021 as well as all the cases that didn’t get tried in 2020,” Third District Court Judge Todd Shaughnessy said in a recent meeting of the Utah Judicial Council, according to FOX 13.

That means calling in more potential jurors. There are about 200,000 jurors available per year in Utah, FOX 13 reports, 137,000 of whom are deemed eligible to serve on a jury. In a typical year, though, only 3,000 people actually get called to serve.

“The new limitation or bottleneck that has emerged for us relates to jury selection,” Shaughnessy said, FOX 13 reports.

The backlog not only impacts Utah residents who may be asked to serve on a jury — those working in the court system are at risk of being overloaded, too. The state authorized using some federal COVID-19 relief money to bring some judges out of retirement to oversee cases. And Fourth District Court Judge Derek Pullan urged the courts not to schedule too many trials, because a lot of the same lawyers and clerks work on cases, according to FOX 13.

“I think we have to be sensitive to the fact that the same public defenders and same prosecutors are impacted and at some point it becomes unreasonable to expect the same people would be adequately prepared to try three first-degree felony cases on the same day,” Pullan said, according to FOX 13.

Read more at FOX13now.com.

Editor’s note: The Salt Lake Tribune and FOX 13 are content-sharing partners.

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