Mar 10

final-jur-e headline

Federal Court in D.C. Faulted on Jury Representativeness

According to the Washington Post, attorneys for a man accused of spray-painting “Yall not tired yet” at the Lincoln Memorial during a May 2020 protest over George Floyd’s murder have asked a federal judge to end what they call the systemic underrepresentation of Black people in the potential jury pool for federal trials in the Capitol City. The defense is raising a fair-cross-section argument based on data showing juries in federal court in Washington, D.C. have fewer Black people than juries seated in the city’s local court situated across the street. The article also reports jury pools in both courts are less diverse than the city’s population.

Success Story in Arizona

The Superior Court of Maricopa County (Phoenix) Arizona has recently moved from a two-step to a one-step process for both county and state grand juries. Matt Martin, jury administrator, informs us that the switch was not without some worry that summoning response rates would fall downward in the process. However, that fear did not materialize. In Matt’s words:

This weighed heavy on our minds and prevented us from making the 2-step conversion. We decided to test the County Grand Jury (CGJ) summoning process first, knowing that it would have a smaller impact and would be easier to recover from if something went wrong. In October of 2022, we summoned 6 weeks prior to the December 9th CGJ empanelment date. Doing this during the holiday months made us apprehensive, but we pushed through, and the result exceeded our expectations. Our estimated summonsing calculation assigned a 24% yield, but the actual yield came in much higher. We had more jurors than we needed and knew that if this stayed consistent, we would be able to reduce the overall summons counts. Over the next 6 County Grand Jury empanelment dates, we saw the yield hold strong at a 31% average with very little variance. Another benefit was derived from moving all qualifying and excuse questions online versus using paper responses. This also allowed jurors to postpone themselves electronically and saved an immense amount of scanning, email, and call time.

With this information, we decided to make the leap with State Grand Jury (SGJ). Our initial summons counts remained the same, but without the second step we were able to eliminate 20% of our mailing costs. The need to begin the 2-step mailing process 10 weeks prior to the selection date was no longer necessary either. Since summoning for petit and grand juries were both moved to the jury management program, we could eliminate paper files.

Finally, we saw a large increase in out-of-county responses for State Grand Jury. It went from an average of 30% over the last 5 years to 38% in our last session. We expect to get that number even higher over the next few sessions. We intentionally inflated our numbers for this experiment for fear of being short jurors and ended up sending 20% of those that showed up home.

Judge Praises New Jersey Trial Innovations

Judge Julio Mendez (ret.) from the New Jersey Atlantic-Cape May Vicinage published a piece in praising two new groundbreaking court rules adopted by the state supreme court to reduce bias in the selection of juries. He states one rule creates a liberal standard of for-cause challenges that will enable judges to excuse more jurors for legitimate reasons. The other rule establishes a new approach for the contested use of peremptory challenges. It incorporates a more objective, straightforward approach to determining the validity of the removal of a juror, and no longer requires a finding of purposeful bias for the court to uphold an objection of a peremptory challenge.

Trial Consultant Sues Proud Boys Defense Team for Wrongful Use of Jury Pool Data

Law 360 ($$) describes the contours of a Texas research firm’s suit against defense lawyers representing members of the far-right Proud Boys group over an allegedly unpaid bill for a report about potential bias in the juror pool in the nation's capital. The plaintiff In Lux Research of Coppell, Texas accuses attorney John Daniel Hull of commissioning a phone survey and report last year on a short deadline and then failing to pay the $30,000 bill. According to In Lux, Hull told plaintiff the study and report would be used by all five co-defendants as part of a bid to convince the court to change the venue of the trial. The company agreed to do the work on a tight deadline for less than a third of its normal cost because $30,000 “was the maximum budget pre-approved” by the defense lawyers, and because the company “had a reasonable belief that their work would be useful to plaintiffs on future projects.” Plaintiff claims the defendants "each copied, distributed and published" the report on the court docket resulting in “[m]ultiple other defendants charged with crimes related to the events of Jan. 6, 2021, and multiple media outlets have used and republished plaintiffs' report due to defendants' misconduct, causing downstream infringers.” With respect to the defense effort to change the trial venue, the judge ultimately rejected various defense arguments.

University Students Consider Proposition That Juries Are Engines of Social Change

A recent issue of The Parthenon, a student newspaper at West Virginia’s Marshall University (named after Justice John Marshall), demonstrates that juries and jury nullification are topics of interest for undergraduates. Sophomore Sarah Davis penned a piece highlighting a campus lecture on “The Role of Juries in Social Change” by guest professor Dr. Sonali Chakravarti.