Iowa Supreme Court seeks more racially diverse juries

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Lorri Montgomery
Director of Communications
National Center for State Courts

Iowa Supreme Court seeks more racially diverse juries

Williamsburg, Va., Oct. 7, 2019 — The Iowa Supreme Court, wanting to increase minority representation on juries statewide, recently adopted a recommendation to go beyond “run-of-the-mill jury management practices” that can lead to underrepresentation of minorities.

The recommendation came from Paula Hannaford-Agor, director of NCSC’s Center for Jury Studies, who wrote in a 2011 article, “Although the socioeconomic factors that contribute to minority underrepresentation in the jury pool do not systematically exclude distinctive groups, the failure of courts to mitigate the underrepresentation through effective jury system practices is itself a form of systematic exclusion.”

A majority of the Iowa Supreme Court in May wrote as part of the majority opinion in State v. Lilly, “If a practice that leads to systematic underrepresentation of a distinctive group in jury pools can be identified and corrected, there is no reason to shield that practice from scrutiny just because it is relatively commonplace. …we hold today that run-of-the-mill jury management practices such as the updating of address lists, the granting of excuses, and the enforcement of jury summonses can support a systematic exclusion claim where the evidence shows one or more of those practices have produced underrepresentation of a minority group.”

Iowa has done other things to improve jury management in recent years. It upgraded the statewide jury automation system, which provides a wider array of technology tools to support best practices in jury management.  It enacted new policies on jury management and provided training for jury managers on those policies. It is developing reports for the jury automation system, which allows its state court administrator to monitor how well jury managers are complying with the policies.  
Hannaford-Agor is one of the nation’s leading experts on juries and is often called upon by  newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, to explain complex challenges juries face.

The National Center for State Courts, headquartered in Williamsburg, Va., is a nonprofit court organization dedicated to improving the administration of justice by providing leadership and service to the state courts. Founded in 1971 by the Conference of Chief Justices and Chief Justice of the United States Warren E. Burger, NCSC provides education, training, technology, management, and research services to the nation’s state courts.

National Center for State Courts, 300 Newport Avenue, Williamsburg, VA 23185-4147