Barry Co. courts preparing for full jury cases

Barry County

HASTINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — Starting Monday, 75 people will be in the Barry Expo Center for jury selection as courtrooms in Barry County make a big step toward normalcy.

“We don’t look at it as an accomplishment. We look at it as our duty,” said Barry County District Court Judge Mike Schipper.

The courthouse is open to the public —at the judge’s discretion— and beginning trials.

And other courts outside the area have taken notice.

“They’ve called, asked us how we’re doing things,” he said. “It’s a little easier for us than, for instance, Kent County because there are only three judges that have to agree on how to handle things. We’ve got a smaller caseload than they do.”

It’s a phased reopening, with every court at a different point. The Michigan Supreme Court has the final say on who is allowed to do what, closely monitoring each case’s safety.

Barry County is taking advantage of the expo center for jury selection, where there is more space to keep the pool of potential jurors socially distanced.

“I think you just have to do it,” Schipper said. “The starting is hard and some of them that haven’t had a huge backlog that’s probably daunting. It’s like swimming, right? No way to do it except to jump in.”

The reopening process varies depending on the courthouse. For example, Kent County is currently not expecting to resume jury trials until October.

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