Duval County to hold first ever Zoom civil jury trial

Jury selection begins Thursday; trial to start Monday

DUVAL COUNTY, Fla. – Duval County will be conducting the first fully remote civil jury trial in the State of Florida.

The trial, also believed to be the first fully remote trial with a binding verdict in the United States, is a result of the Fourth Judicial Circuit being chosen by the Florida Supreme Court to serve as one of five remote civil trial pilot projects throughout the State.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, people seem to be using Zoom more now than ever. Starting Thursday, August 6th, that officially includes seating a Duval County jury.

"The first thing that goes through my mind as a lawyer is to say, 'this is going to be hard to pull off'," Nichols said.

DOCUMENT: Read the full complaint

Defense attorney, Gene Nichols, isn't involved with this case but has researched it. The complaint says a former exotic dancer was injured after a bouncer threw her out of the now-closed Paradise Gentleman's Club on Baymeadows Road. The plaintiff is asking for damages in excess of $15,000. Court records show the parties involved have signed consent forms saying they have no objections to a remote trial.

Nichols says when picking a jury, important things attorneys would look for if the process were inside the courtroom could be lost over Zoom.

"All he'd most likely be able to see is them from their chest up and just their face," Nichols said. "How they'd turn their head or not how they would look at somebody else. Or someone who is not paying attention. All the different subtleties we can learn from jurors."

Nichols also talked about technical problems that can arise with the process proceeding online. He says technical support would most likely be available. He also says potential jurors becoming distracted at home, as opposed to inside the courtroom, could be an issue. He says the judge will lay down the law.

"Not having your email up on your computer while you're participating in jury selection," Nichols said. "Making sure that you're not working or doing anything else, or answering the phones."

Nichols says Zoom jurors will need to be focused. He also says how this new endeavor works out will be crucial in the days to come. News4jax also checked with the Clerk of Courts to see if there was any chance a criminal trial could be handled remotely. A spokesperson said there are no plans to do that.

Jury selection begins Thursday, August 6th, at 8:30 a.m. The trial itself will take place on beginning at 9 a.m. Monday. The Clerk of Courts says the trial will be available for viewing on Courtroom View Network.

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