The master jury list is the first step in the complex process of assembling a pool of prospective jurors. To ensure that the process is efficient and that the resulting jury pool reflects the demographic composition of the community, the master jury list should be broadly inclusive of the adult population, geographically and demographically representative, and contain accurate address records. With funding from SJI, the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) Center for Jury Studies examined juror source lists and master jury lists in three states. The final report highlights the implications of using poor quality juror source lists and failing to identify duplicate records during process of merging multiple lists, which resulted in substantially over-inclusive source lists and master jury lists in all three states.
The NCSC concluded that over-inclusiveness can be as problematic as under-inclusiveness. The presence of unrecognized duplicate records and stale records undermines the efficiency of the jury system by incurring printing, postage, and staffing costs for duplicative jury summonses or summonses that do not reach the intended recipients. It also distorts demographic representation in different ways. In some states, it may mask underrepresentation of racial and ethnic groups; in others, it may cause concerns about underrepresentation that does not really exist. The NCSC recommended that state courts use only as many juror source lists as necessary to achieve inclusiveness at or near 100 percent. The choice of which source lists to use should be based on assessments of list quality, especially concerning record accuracy, which may differ from state to state. The report includes detailed recommendations for courts to assess the quality of juror source lists in their respective states and maximize the accuracy of their master jury lists.