Jurors' Coronavirus Hardship Declarations
We frequently work on cases that last two or more weeks. In those cases, many jurors will submit hardship declarations or request to postpone their service. Reasons for submitting hardship declaration are varied. Some prospective jurors might have a vacation planned, have financial restrictions, or have someone they care for during trial hours. Judges use their discretion when it comes to granting jurors’ hardship excusals, but in California, they are guided by California Rules of Court. Because of concerns about exposure to coronavirus in the courthouse, many people are submitting coronavirus hardship declaration and some request alternatives to in-person jury service.
Below are several quotes from prospective jurors who requested a coronavirus hardship for an in-person trial during the pandemic. Some of their reasons are typical, and others are very unique to the pandemic. For instance, other people’s mask wearing would present a hardship for this juror:
I am hard of hearing and have used hearing aides since 2 years old. I rely on reading lips, social queues & have high end hearing device to a successful degree for my work and life has been good. However, with COVID 19 and the required masks, I am struggling to “hear” because I can’t read ones lips and the 6 ft social distancing makes it really hard to understand and know what people are saying. To be a juror, I need to know all the information on a given case to make a good decision. I cannot do this under COVID-19 requirements.
Hardships Related to Childcare
It’s not uncommon to see hardship requests for parents taking care of very young children. This was the most common hardship excuse related directly to the effects of COVID-19. Normally, school-aged kids would typically be in-school during trial hours. But with the pandemic, parents have to stay home because their kids can’t go to school. Here are some quotes from those prospective jurors:
I have two young children (ages 10 and 6) at home and am responsible for their care during the weekdays due to lack of childcare and camps this summer. Once school starts in August, I am also responsible for their attendance remotely and work completion.
I have childcare duties on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. My child’s daycare provider has reduced service due to COVID-19. I’m perfectly capable of attending Tuesdays and Thursdays but on Wednesday, [DATE] I’ll have my toddler with me. Although I requested to join remotely, I may have difficulty completely paying attention. It will be an undue hardship.
Need to provide care for my daughter, who has been attending classes remotely since March. Any technical glitches, I need to fix for her to continue to learn.
I have two boys, 16 and 8 years old. My wife works from home these days and she has extreme difficulty in reorganizing or rescheduling her work-related duties. She relies a lot on my support especially for providing lunch, breakfast, and dinner for my kids and also their school homework.
My wife is an ICU nurse at the hospital. Her unit is the hospital’s primary COVID response unit and her on-site presence is required. We have two young children, 8 and 11 years old, and due to the pandemic, no child care options on the three days/week that my wife has to work.
I am the sole and indispensable caretaker of my two children ages and 4 years old. There is no one else who can do this. Their father works full time and we cannot afford to pay for a source of full-time childcare through [the 8 week trial], the foreseeable conclusion of the case.
Lost job and am now sole available caregiver for my kids, ages 7 and 9, who are home sheltering.
Me and my wife are working and we have two kids, 8 and 6 years old who need constant attention at home. We cannot send the kids to school or daycare due to COVID-19. Please excuse me from jury duty.
Concerns about Infecting Elderly Relatives
Early in the pandemic, there was awareness that the elderly was a “high-risk” groups who should take extra precautions to limit their risk of exposure to COVID-19. The following jurors were elderly or care for elderly relatives and they had concerns about exposing them to the coronavirus. Here are their quotes from their coronavirus hardship declarations:
I am 69 years old and a heart attack survivor. I am the secondary caregiver for my 100 year old mother and the primary caregiver for her on Wednesdays. I am a highly at risk for COVID 19 and jury duty puts me at risk.
I realize this is not unique, I am very concerned about exposure to COVID 19. I have elderly parents I am supporting and do not want to expose them. I am trying to limit exposure.
I am the primary caregiver for my 94-year old mother who lives with me and recently had heart surgery. My jury duty would compromise her health and care and put her at risk. Accordingly, I request that I be released from jury service.
I am not sure if I should be excused because I am 71 years old and considered high-risk for COVID-19.
Concerns about Personal Safety
Not surprisingly, there were several prospective jurors who were concerned about the exposure jury duty would create. The limited ability to social distance and reduced ventilation in the courthouse, caused many jurors to express that they would rather not serve until after the pandemic was over. Jurors’ coronavirus hardship declarations articulate common concerns:
I am worried I don’t feel safe coming to jury duty even with the guidelines in place. I feel safer at work. Anyone that has coronavirus can come to jury duty. The coronavirus situation is making me stressed out. I don’t feel safe. I feel weak sometimes and can’t wear masks often, can’t breathe well and get irritation on skin.
I do not have the money to take public transportation as I cannot find a job. I also do not feel safe if I must be forced to take public transportation. Especially if it is for 8 weeks.
I have an anxiety disorder which will make it hard for me to be indoors around people during this pandemic.
The coronavirus situation is making me stressed out. I don’t feel safe! I don’t feel safe coming to jury duty even with the guidelines in place. Anyone that has coronavirus can come to jury duty. No one took temperatures. There have been people who are sick that go places. I feel weak sometimes and can’t wear masks often can’t breathe well and get irritation on skin.
Financial and Employment Coronavirus Hardship Declarations
People are feeling the financial impact and economic devastation of COVID-19. Record numbers of unemployment likely contributed to these jurors’ concerns about serving in an 8-week trial. The following coronavirus hardship declarations highlight the impact of of the pandemic:
I get paid hourly and it’s low income ($25/hr). If I miss these hours I will not be able to pay my monthly mortgage. As it is, due to COVID-19, my hours have been decreased. My husband is unable to work due to reconstructive surgery. It’s just me. This is a very hard situation as I cannot afford to miss pay. Definitely a financial hardship. Please understand. Thank you.
I am a football coach and public school teacher and have concerns over COVID-19 Exposure and the start of school. I currently come in daily proximity to 30 youth to check in for activities, including health screening. With school looming, I worry of the impact my ability to adequately maintain any guidelines or we will have adequate substitutes in this time of crisis. This puts the lives of dozens of children and their families at risk. Thank you for your consideration and respect for community safety.
I am an essential worker for a community services organization in the city. We provide and deliver medically tailored meals for seniors, chronically ill people in the area who are homebound. We have record numbers of clients now due to COVID-19.
I will incur financial hardship. My wife and I will not be able to pay rent if either of us is out of work more than 4 weeks. My employer has reduced my wages during the COVID-19 situation. This has depleted our savings.
Currently have my hands full making sure my company survives the current COVID-19 crisis. My duties cannot be put on hold or delegated so I will have to work before and after hours spent sitting in court. I will be tired.