Oct 22

final-jur-e headline

D.C. High Court Faults Trial Judge for Denying Batson Challenge

In Harris v. United States, the D.C. Court of Appeals overturned a trial judge’s denial of the defendant’s Batson challenge because of the trial judge’s failure to “vigorously scrutinize” a prosecutor’s race-neutral explanations for the peremptory strikes.  In a case involving a White police officer’s encounter with a Black citizen, the court and the parties considered the case “racially charged”—prompting the high court to conclude the Batson challenge required “sensitive” and “heightened scrutiny” of the prosecutor’s stated reasons for making peremptory strikes.   The appellate panel chose to vacate the conviction rather than remand it to the trial court “because the government’s reasons, focused in large part on prospective jurors’ attitudes and lack of enthusiasm, were proffered so long (over three years) ago that they cannot now be meaningfully tested.”

New Jersey Courts to Hold Two-Day Conference on Jury Selection

As the Jur-E Bulletin reported last month, the New Jersey Supreme Court in State v. Andujar (decided July 13, 2021) announced it would undertake a comprehensive review of the state’s jury selection processes.  The court asked the director of the Administrative Office of the Courts to arrange for a Judicial Conference on Jury Selection.  The dates for the undertaking are now set for November 10 and 12.  The program will address implicit bias, peremptory challenges, jury representativeness, and juror records and demographic data.  Bar and community members are receiving invitations.  The court announcement states, “The Judicial Conference is intended to assist the Supreme Court in the consideration of improvements in the practice and procedure of jury selection. All written and oral comments submitted before and during the Conference will be considered by the Court. A post-Conference report will be published with an additional opportunity for public comment.”

Arizona Task Force Issues Report & Recommendations on Jury Data Collection, Practices, and Procedures

On March 10, 2021, Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Brutinel issued Administrative Order No. 2020-351 establishing the Task Force on Jury Data Collection, Practices, and Procedures. Earlier this month, the task force’s work product was sent to the state supreme court.  The recommendations are organized using four areas of focus: 1) making recommendations to improve the public’s understanding and perception of jury service; 2) maximizing the use of summoned jurors and ensuring courts collect and analyze data to verify that summoned jurors represent a fair cross-section of the community; 3) overcoming barriers to jury service; and 4) minimizing the potential for discrimination in the jury selection process.  The recommendations include:

  • Launching a statewide public information campaign to generate a culture of ownership of our justice system, promote the importance of participation in jury service, increase the public’s willingness to participate in jury service, and attempt to confront and overcome negative attitudes about jury service. The campaign would be titled “Fair Because I Was There.”
  • Increasing the daily minimum stipend for jury service, reducing the threshold for citizens to be compensated from the Lengthy Trial Fund, and creating a childcare stipend for qualified jurors.
  • Improving the ways candid information can be obtained from jurors to better assess requests to strike a juror for cause.  For example, using online juror questionnaires, spending sufficient time to question prospective jurors, training for more effective use of for cause strikes, and training for jurists and attorneys regarding implicit bias and its impact on jury selection.
  • Improving the collection of juror biographical data to assess the representativeness and inclusiveness of master jury lists.

Since the task force’s recommendations are issued after the state supreme court’s recent abolishment of peremptory strikes, the high court asked the task force to consider additional rules to ensure empaneling of fair and impartial jurors in the absence of peremptory challenges.

U.S. Postal Service Delivery Changes Can Affect State Courts

The U.S. Postal Service recently implemented some changes that will increase the delivery time for about 40% of first-class mail across the country. State and local courts rely on the US Postal Service to effectuate service, deliver time-sensitive documents, and receive payments for fees and fines. The date a document is mailed or received can also have enormous implications, as many court rules specify "triggering events," which can start the clock running toward things like a show cause order, a default judgment, or wage garnishment.  How can and should courts adapt to these latest changing USPS procedures and the implications of those changes? Join NCSC staff for a Tiny Chat to discuss several ways courts can better inform court users and reconsider operations in light of these developments.

The Orlando Sentinel Bemoans Jury Duty Stipend

The newspaper’s editorial board focused on the ongoing jury selection process now underway in the murder trial of Markeith Loyd.  The authors noted, “Accounts from inside the courtroom last week reported that potential juror after potential juror cited financial hardship as a reason why they couldn't serve….  Lots of problems are hard to solve. This one's not: Florida should join the handful of states, including Alabama and Nebraska, that require employers to continue paying employees who get called for jury duty.  The state of Florida should not continue to foster a system of justice where residents who live paycheck to paycheck have to choose between serving on a jury or making that month's rent.  It's not fair to them and it's not fair to criminal defendants, who deserve to have a broad cross section of the community sitting in judgment.  Juries shouldn’t consist solely of people who can afford the time off, or who happened to have employers benevolent and civic-minded enough to keep paying employees.”