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December 2009

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


Smooth Rollout for National eJuror Program

The national deployment of the eJuror program is well under way. Between June 2009 and the end of November, 52 districts installed this latest enhancement to the Jury Management System (JMS) and 14 are now live with the program, with more scheduled to go live over the next few months. In all, 81 of the 94 districts will implement eJuror by April 2010.

The eJuror program gives potential jurors the option of responding to their jury questionnaire form or summons online. Jurors choosing to complete these forms electronically won’t have to mail them. They also can update personal information, check when they need to report for jury service, submit a request for an excuse or deferral, and select an alternate time to serve. And they do it from the convenience of their homes, at any time of the day or night.

On a Friday in early November, Kris Porter, jury administrator for the District of Utah, mailed out questionnaires to 1,800 potential jurors. The online responses began almost immediately.

“I was surprised at how many respondents went online,” said Porter. “We mailed the questionnaires on a Friday, and that same day 53 logged-on to eJuror. On Monday, 113 went online.” The Utah court is not offering the option of deferrals online, but according to Porter, the majority of respondents are not asking to be excused from service. And there’s an immediate plus to eJuror: “We don’t have to open envelopes, take out forms, and scan them,” Porter said. That saves processing time and money.

Carrie LaCourse, jury administrator in the Northern District of New York, was part of the JMS Working Group and volunteered to be part of the original eJuror pilot. The district began offering eJuror in June 2009, sending information on the ease of use and accessibility of the program along with jury summonses. The response has been encouraging.

“Between June and November,” said LaCourse, “we’ve had 33 percent of our respondents use eJuror.”

The district allows jurors responding online to take one automatic deferral and select the month in which they want to serve. “We’ve found that, when given a choice, jurors serve willingly when it comes time to do their jury service,” LaCourse said.

There are additional benefits to the court, according to LaCourse. “With eJuror, fewer forms cross my desk, address changes are made online, and data reentry is reduced,” she said. Their experience has been so positive, beginning in January, the district will start using eJuror for responses to questionnaires, too.

“I have to admit, I was rather surprised we had such a good response,” said Mary Beth Hill, jury administrator for the District of Kansas. Of the 65,000 jury questionnaires mailed by the court, more than 9,000 recipients responded online within 10 days. “We currently are allowing responses to summonses through eJuror, and out of 950 summonses in three divisions, we’ve had 455 responses through eJuror.”

Hill was pleasantly surprised by another finding: the median age for those responding to questionnaires by eJuror was 45-50.

The Southern District of Iowa went live with eJuror in July. The program already has reduced the amount of paper received by the district court and the time spent processing it.

“Now the process involves much less paper,” said Jury Administrator Jamie Morawski. “And we can be a lot more flexible. We can take requests and questions by e-mail. Respondents can fax in doctor’s notes instead of mailing them. eJuror allows jurors to defer service for 30-60 days from the original date. They tell us when they want to serve. It’s all geared toward customer service.”

The district also includes a reminder in its jury notices that going online to respond is the “green” alternative. “We want to go paperless,” explained Morawski, and they’re well on their way: of 1,330 summonses mailed, 363 were responded to through eJuror.

“Nationally, deployment of eJuror is going very smoothly,” said David Williams, in the Administrative Office’s District Court Administration Division, which is responsible for the program. Williams and Dan Elsroad have coordinated the national rollout of the eJuror program since June 2009 and, before that, worked with the JMS Working Group to design and test the look and feel of eJuror. “The feedback we’ve received is on how easy eJuror is to use,” Williams said. “Courts have a faster response from potential jurors and there are fewer forms to process manually. We may never get away from sending paper, but eJuror will increase data reliability and save time for everyone.”