Douglas County District Court allows jury trials to return to normal courtrooms

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

The Douglas County Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, which houses Douglas County District Court and a number of other criminal justice services at 111 E. 11th St., is pictured April 8, 2020.

The Douglas County District Court is allowing jury trials to return to normal courtrooms.

The court’s chief judge, James McCabria, told the Journal-World Friday afternoon that he filed an order allowing local judges to conduct proceedings without the social-distancing precautions that were in place for the coronavirus pandemic. The order says wearing masks in the courtroom is a sufficient mitigation tool for the time being.

The change means trials will no longer need to be conducted at the Douglas County Fairgrounds, which the court was using for social-distancing purposes.

“With this change, each judge will now be free to decide whether to conduct 12 person jury trials in their courtroom,” McCabria said in an email. “There may be circumstances where a given case would justify use of the alternate venue at the fairgrounds.”

McCabria also said the order may not be permanent. He said the court would continue to consult with Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health to determine whether a need exists for social distancing if local COVID-19 case numbers rise again.

In recent months, the court has been using Building 21 at the fairgrounds to conduct jury trials. As the Journal-World previously reported, the fairgrounds venue allowed for the screening of up to 30 jurors at a time while still providing space for social distancing. The court resumed jury trials in April, and several have been conducted at the fairgrounds.

Additionally, the court was not planning on using the fairground buildings later this month because of the Douglas County Fair, which will return to a full schedule this year. McCabria previously told the Journal-World the court made sure not to conduct jury trials at the facility during the fair.

Contact Dylan Lysen

Have a story idea, news or information to share? Contact reporter Dylan Lysen:


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.