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Council for Court Excellence Releases Report on Jury Service in D.C.

With assistance from SJI, the Council for Court Excellence (CCE) embarked on a new comprehensive study of issues relating to jury service in D.C. from the perspective of jurors, judges, and lawyers (SJI-14-T-086).

Working out of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia and the Superior Court of the District of Columbia over a 12-month period, a CCE Project Committee reexamined the jury system in the District of Columbia, as a follow up to CCE’s initial study of jury service in 1998. The Committee was comprised of subject matter experts, staff, and local stakeholders. The results of their reexamination are available in the final report: Jury Service Revisited: Upgrades for the 21st Century.

Included in the summary of recommendations are lists related to Juror Care; Jury Pool and Summoning; and Trial Structure. The report includes exhibits that feature items in use by the D.C. Courts including forms, pamphlets, and letters.

In addition to the collection of data and metrics provided by the Courts on jury trials and protocols used in selecting jurors, a total of 24 trials were observed; Voir Dire information evaluated in selected cases; and juror survey experiences analyzed.  The report provides updated information relative to the jury experience that did not exist as a concern in 1988, namely social media-related policies for jurors, greater real-time access to information, and technology advancements in court systems allowing for greater automation of the process.

The Committee acknowledged that their overall goal is to support citizens in their roles as jurors and improve the effective administration of justice through juries. Beyond assembling and analyzing the requisite data, as well as generating findings for this report, the Committee is exploring the following next steps:

  • Encourage and support testing of proposed improvements through pilot projects in courtrooms of the D.C. Superior Court and the U.S. District Court for DC.
  • Support implementation of recommendations contained in the D.C. Jury Project Report.
  • Suggest educational programs for the bench, the bar, jurors, and the public concerning any prospective jury reforms.
  • Establish methods to periodically examine the utilization of any newly adopted rules and procedures to determine their effects, and suggest modifications when necessary.