Randy Sue Pollock ’74 is one of the few lawyers in the country in trial at the moment. A top-rated criminal defense attorney based in Oakland, she has been in Lexington, Kentucky, trying a case on behalf of her client Nader Sarkhosh, an owner of a California charter flight company charged with conspiracy to transport drugs and launder money. The Recorder caught up with Pollock after she finished some work on jury instructions to find out what it’s like trying a case in the midst of a global pandemic.
How have the “shelter in place” orders that were put in place in Kentucky affected the way that the trial has proceeded?
Shelter in place occurred maybe a month ago … or shortly after California. I’m not sure because we were going to court and back to our “home” without focusing on the news. We suddenly became aware of the news around March 16.
The judge immediately gave jurors a questionnaire to complete and voir dired everyone individually. They all wanted to continue. The judge then proceeded to give them a five-question questionnaire to complete every morning to see how they were doing to make sure they could continue to focus.
How is the courtroom set up now? Are jurors or the parties wearing masks?
The judge reconfigured the jury so that there is a third row in front of the box and jurors in the box have an empty chair between them. The alternates are seated in different rows of the gallery. One juror, a retired RN, wanted to wear a mask. There are [hand sanitizer dispensers] all over the courtroom. Lunch is brought in for the jurors. No one is allowed into the courthouse unless they are attorneys or witnesses in this case. No cellphones are permitted except for counsel. The courthouse is sanitized every day.
What are your plans once you get back to the Bay Area?
My paralegal and I are exhausted, but the end is in sight. Things in Kentucky seem much better than California, so we are concerned about being quarantined at home, but it’s time to return to the world. Our isolation has to come to an end.
All in all, we have survived well because of a great judge and an equally great governor here in Kentucky. I now consider him “my governor.” He is proactive, thoughtful and so attentive to his constituents.
The blue-coat security officers have been the nicest I have ever met in ANY courthouse. I will definitely miss them. Everyone has been welcoming to us and concerned about us.
This has been a true experience. Staying focused in a serious federal trial, probably the only one ongoing during the pandemic! I never thought this would happen.
You can read the entire interview, conducted by Ross Todd, bureau chief of The Recorder, here. This excerpt is published with their permission.