Ontario team to receive 2019 Munsterman Award for innovation in jury inclusiveness

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Paula Hannaford-Agor
Director of the Center for Jury Studies
National Center for State Courts

Ontario team to receive 2019 Munsterman Award for innovation in jury inclusiveness

Williamsburg, Va., Oct. 11, 2019 The Juries Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) Team has been selected as the recipient of the National Center for State Courts’ (NCSC) 2019 G. Thomas Munsterman Award for Jury Innovation. The Munsterman Award recognizes states, local courts, organizations and individuals that have made significant improvements or innovations in jury procedures, operations and practices. The Ontario team is the first Munsterman Award recipient outside of the United States.

Ontario had been criticized for its lack of inclusiveness of jurors, specifically members of the First Nations, Canada’s predominant indigenous people group. Ontario’s old jury list, based on randomly selected individuals from the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) database, did not capture subsections of the population, so the validity of the jury roll was challenged. 

Although the Supreme Court of Canada decision, R vs. Kokopenance, upheld the validity of the jury roll, the court said Ontario “should continue efforts to increase the representativeness of the source lists for the Ontario jury roll and continue addressing the underrepresentation of First Nations on-reserve residents in the jury system.”

The OHIP Team was established in 2018 to implement a new, single source of data – OHIP’s  Registered Persons Database – for identifying potential jurors. The new platform streamlines operations and creates efficiency.  In providing a more inclusive and up-to-date source list for the jury roll, the use of the OHIP database increases the opportunity for broader participation on Ontario’s juries.

Paula Hannaford-Agor praised the organization’s collaborative and pioneering effort. “After being called-out, so to speak, about its lack of inclusiveness, Ontario did some real soul searching,” she said. “The group was willing to look fresh and improve its jury pool process. More state courts should follow Ontario’s lead and think outside the box when compiling their jury lists.”

In a letter to the Munsterman nominating committee, Paul Boniferro, Deputy Attorney General for Ontario, said the team “deserves recognition as it has essentially overhauled the underpinnings of the compilation process for Ontario’s jury roll. A change of this nature required a dedicated team to envision the appropriate legislative changes, as well as to create the new technological and operational processes, policies and procedures required to support the changed environment.”

The Munsterman Award is named for G. Thomas Munsterman the founder and former director of NCSC’s Center for Jury Studies and an internationally renowned innovator in jury systems and research. Munsterman is 79 and currently resides in Decatur, Georgia.

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