Quality, not quantity, is the key to more diverse master jury lists
Relying on multiple juror source lists does not necessarily yield more representative jury pools, according to new research released by NCSC’s Center for Jury Studies.
“Eliminating Shadows and Ghosts: Findings from a Study of Inclusiveness, Representativeness, and Record Accuracy in Master Jury Lists and Juror Source Lists in Three States” finds that the solution to more diverse jury pools lies with high-quality source lists and better duplicate recognition and list maintenance techniques.
“Racial and ethnic minority groups are often underrepresented in jury pools,” said Center for Jury Studies Director Paula Hannaford-Agor. “Conventional wisdom for the past 50 years has held that the use of multiple juror source lists was one way of ensuring a jury pool that reflects a fair cross-section of the community.”
The study—based on data from Missouri, New Jersey, and Tennessee—highlights the implications of using poor quality juror source lists and failing to identify duplicate records during the list-merging process. Researchers found that the resulting over-inclusiveness undermines the efficiency of jury operations and greatly distorts efforts to assess the representativeness of the master jury list.
To avoid these issues, NCSC recommends that state courts use only as many juror source lists as necessary to achieve inclusiveness at or near 100 percent. IT departments can assist courts with determining which source lists should be used based on list quality, especially concerning record accuracy, which may differ from state to state.
Historically, master jury lists were created from voter registration and driver’s license and state identification cardholder lists. More recently, states have started to include names of individuals who receive unemployment compensation, state income tax filers, and public welfare recipients.
“To ensure that this 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 jury-eligible population, geographically and demographically representative, and contain accurate address records,” Hannaford-Agor said.
To read the report in its entirety and review recommendations for more effective master jury lists, visit the Center for Jury Studies.
Blueprint for Racial Justice offers new tools for courts
A shared language guide, reading resource, and in-person convening are among the latest offerings from the Blueprint for Racial Justice.
Launched in 2021 in response to action from the Conference of Chief Justices and the Conference of State Court Administrators, the Blueprint for Racial Justice is examining systemic changes needed to make equal justice under the law an enduring reality for all. A steering committee of chief justices, state court administrators, and NCSC leadership is guiding more than 150 judicial branch leaders, court executives, and NCSC experts to develop tools and resources that identify and address inequities impacting racial justice.
The “Establishing a Shared Language in State Courts” document explains why developing a shared language is an important step in conversations about racial justice and offers guidance on how to get started. Another Blueprint for Racial Justice conversation starter is the Watch, Read, Listen initiative, which encourages the court community to discuss books and films that address topical issues. The latest selection, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, examines the inner workings of an American hierarchy that extends beyond race, class, or gender. Finally, a project team is actively planning a November in-person, invitation-only convening of court diversity, equity, and inclusion staff from across the country that will provide a unique venue for learning and collaboration.
Learn more about these Blueprint for Racial Justice activities and others at ncsc.org/racialjustice.