G. Thomas Munsterman, founder and former director of National Center for State Courts’ Center for Jury Studies, is retiring from NCSC effective July 30, 2010, after more than 30 years of working to improve jury service. Although Munsterman has been flirting with retirement for the past three years, he decided to make it official when his wife, Janice Munsterman, retired as executive director of the State Justice Institute.
Munsterman said he feels confident in the progress jury systems have made. “Our goal was to make it feasible for all persons to serve, and to serve with respect on juries that reflect the population,” Munsterman said. Looking back on his achievements, he said making jury management a part of the court structure, implementing a one-day/one-trial term of jury service, and going beyond the voters’ list for prospective jurors’ names are three improvements that have had the most impact.
He credits these accomplishments, and others, to personally visiting courts in every state in the country, participating in training, and providing technical assistance. “Talking to the judges, that’s the secret,” he said. “Then the court administrator and other staff can take it from there.”
As for innovations that have made jury service more valuable for jurors, Munsterman believes that allowing jurors to submit questions has had the most significance. But the project he found most fascinating was “helping the Russians re-establish trial by jury,” he said.
In 2008, NCSC created the G. Thomas Munsterman Award for Jury Innovation to recognize states, local courts, organizations, or individuals who have made significant improvements or innovations in jury procedures, operations, and practices. The same year, Munsterman received the Jury System Impact Award from the American Bar Association’s Commission on the American Jury “in recognition of extraordinary efforts in the improvement and strengthening of the American jury system.”
Munsterman has authored and co-authored numerous books, including Jury System Management (1996), Jury Trial Innovations (1997), Manual for Cooperation Between State and Federal Courts (1997), and Managing Notorious Trials (1998). He also wrote a commissioned paper "Innovations in Jury Trial Procedures" for the American Bar Association and Brookings Institution Symposium on the Future of the Civil Jury System in the U.S.