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December 2008

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This article is in the news archives --- for current news go to the Third Branch News.


On-Line eJuror Cuts Costs, Saves Time

You can shop on the Web, pay bills on-line, even file income tax returns electronically. Why not submit your juror qualification questionnaire and summons information forms on-line?

Beginning this month, potential jurors in the U.S. District Courts for the Middle District of Pennsylvania and the Western District of Kentucky have the option of submitting their juror qualification questionnaire and summons information forms on-line through the eJuror system, a new component to the federal Judiciary’s Jury Management System (JMS). The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois will enter the eJuror pilot program sometime in January. Courts around the country will follow in waves. If all goes as planned, by 2010 any member of the public may be able to visit the website of their federal court not only to submit their jury forms 24-hours a day and 7-days a week, but also to get updates on their jury service.

Questionnaire forms help determine a potential juror’s eligibility to serve, while jurors called to serve use the summons information form to update their personal information. Potential jurors still will receive print versions of the forms. But they now will have the option of either mailing in the print form or going on-line to complete the form(s). Users choosing the on-line option login to eJuror, which prompts them with successive screens to respond to a series of questions, the same questions as the print forms.

Cindy St. Pierre, jury administrator for the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania and a member of the court team that helped design eJuror, is looking forward to the program launch in her district.

“People use computers for everything these days,” St. Pierre said. “Sure, some people will still fill out the paper form and return it. But others feel it would be so much easier to fill out the form on-line and get their confirmation immediately. I’m excited about it and I think the courts will be happy with eJuror.”

With eJuror users can update personal information, submit a medical or other excuse, or request a deferral on-line—all with the convenience of on-line submission. Jurors also may login to eJuror to learn their current juror status—if they must report for jury duty or if they are excused. For those completing their jury service, they may use eJuror to print certificates of attendance, which may be required by employers, and to complete surveys about their experience. With over 6,000 civil and criminal juries selected in fiscal year 2007 alone, this is a boon for all involved.

“The eJuror system is a time- and cost-saver for both the courts and the public,” said Judge John R. Tunheim, chair of the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management. “With eJuror, there will be fewer forms for the courts to process manually and less data to re-enter into the system, which will increase data reliability and save time. Such functions as excuse requests, deferrals, and certificates of attendance will be automated and available on-line for the public, reducing staff time even further. It’s faster to communicate with jurors by e-mail, and courts will save on postage costs.”

The launch of eJuror is the culmination of many individual efforts. “The JMS web page team has worked for over a year on the district court eJuror system,” said attorney David Williams in the Administrative Office’s District Court Administration Division. “They have fine-tuned requirements, gathered comments on usability, and tested software until it’s ready.”

Courts may customize eJuror’s language and web presentation, adding graphics or local court identification. It also is configured to support both 1-step and 2-step processing, depending on which model the court follows. (One step processing combines the jury summons with the gathering of qualifying information; the 2-step process gathers qualifying information first before sending a summons.) Courts can choose the eJuror features they want to use.

“There’s lots I really like about the eJuror program,” said St. Pierre, “especially the ability the courts have to turn on and off features. For example, eJuror can be set up to accept one or more deferrals automatically or to require all deferral requests be reviewed by the court. And the system won’t allow us to choose those people who are deferred. The courts also can customize each screen a person sees. It just has lots of flexibility.”

Williams and Dan Elsroad, the eJuror program administrators, have provided AO support and direction for the web page team of mainly jury and systems administrators from the U.S. District Courts for the Districts of Connecticut, Kansas, Nevada, Northern District of Illinois, Western District of Kentucky, Eastern District of Missouri, Northern District of New York, Middle District of Pennsylvania, and Western District of Tennessee. Technical support for eJuror has come from AO staff at the Systems Deployment and Support Division in San Antonio and Phoenix and the Office of Court Administration’s Technology Division, along with Affiliated Computer Services, the JMS vendor that developed the eJuror software.

For information on bringing eJuror to your court, contact David Williams or Dan Elsroad at (202) 502-1570.