Cambria County preparing for next round of jury trials while maintaining COVID protocols

Shawn Curtis, The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.
·2 min read

Mar. 30—EBENSBURG — With jury selection for Cambria County's spring session of criminal trials beginning this week, the Ebensburg courthouse is gearing up to host prospective jurors as it has in the fall and winter with care in regard to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

District Court Administrator William J. Valko echoed a sentiment from a courthouse judge that those who have received a summons from the court to potentially serve on a jury have little to worry about in terms of being exposed to the novel coronavirus.

"This is probably the cleanest place you could be in, to tell you the truth," Valko said. "We have inmates who come and clean this place in the mornings. They scrub it down every day. Then we spray it. Honestly, like (President Judge Norman A. Krumenacker) said: 'If you're going to get COVID somewhere, you're not going to get it here. You're going to get it somewhere else.'"

Three criminal trials requiring a jury are scheduled for selection on Thursday and Valko says that there are seven criminal jury trials scheduled for the spring session.

Valko points out that even in a world changed by COVID, the county was able to adapt faster than other counties in the region to keep the processes going.

"We've actually picked a lot of juries in the past year," Valko said. "We have the benefit of having a very big court room, so we were able to social-distance everybody and do a bunch of different things to make sure everybody is spread out."

—Those selected for jury duty are required to park at the Cambria County Fairgrounds, where they will be shuttled to the courthouse. The shuttles — provided by the courthouse and CamTran — would be limited to eight passengers per vehicle.

—Those entering the courthouse are required to wear masks and will have their temperatures scanned before proceeding.

—While awaiting the selection process, prospective jurors will be sequestered in Court Room No. 1 while maintaining social-distance protocols. Lunch will also be served to those in Court Room No. 1.

—Upon potential selection, those serving will be placed in either Court Room No. 2 or 3.

With respect to anyone's fears of being exposed to COVID-19, Valko said maintaining communication with the courthouse will go a long way in helping all parties.

"We work with everybody; we're very jury friendly," Valko said. "We want to have a very friendly jury pool. We don't want anyone here who doesn't want to be here."