Innovation streamlines jury service
(With thanks to Diane Pawlowicz, executive director, Court Research and Development, Administrative Office of the Courts, for her contributions to this article.)
Technology is making it easier to get ready to serve on a jury.
Many of the larger counties in Maryland have used specialized computer software for several years to help in the random selection, notification and management of jurors. The Administrative Office of the Courts is now providing support for the implementation of new jury management software for 15 jurisdictions in Maryland. When this roll-out is complete, by the end of next year, all 24 jurisdictions will have modern jury management systems.
The new systems have been launched in the nine counties of the Eastern Shore. Implementation in Washington, Allegany, Garrett, Charles and St. Mary’s counties is in process, and jurors received summons under the new system in May. Baltimore City will follow, with jurors summoned there for the first time on the new system by early 2012.
Compared to the former jury systems, citizens who are selected for jury service may notice some of the following changes:
Potential jurors will receive only one document in the mail—a combined qualification questionnaire and summons. The juror questionnaire section of the form determines an individual’s qualification to serve on a jury. This portion can be mailed in, and some jurisdictions will offer the option to complete the questionnaire online.
In many jurisdictions, potential jurors will also be able to take a one-time postponement of jury service to a future date online. The summons portion of the document notifies the potential juror of their term of service and provides instructions about how to find out whether to report on a given day. There are several ways courts provide this information, including a call-in number with a recorded message, and a web address that posts a schedule.
Modern jury management systems that are currently installed have improved the experience of potential jurors in several ways:
There is a reduction in the number of people required to complete a questionnaire each year.
The check-in process for jurors reporting for service is quicker.
Postage costs are reduced for both the court and the potential juror who is given the option for online completion of the questionnaire.
Courts are better able to determine how many jurors are needed on a given day, thus reducing the need to bring in potential jurors unnecessarily.
Jury commissioners and clerks are able to access information more quickly to answer questions from potential jurors.
Options available vary from one jurisdiction to another, but such options apply to all fifteen jurisdictions in the current roll-out.
Courts have also updated their websites to provide 24-hour information about instructions for jury service, policies and procedures, maps, directions, parking information, and contact information. Take a look at individual court information at www.mdcourts.gov/juryservice/commissioners.html.