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Quality, not quantity, is the key to more diverse master jury lists

Molly Justice
Director of Communications & Online Media
(757) 259-1564

Quality, not quantity, is the key to more diverse master jury lists

Williamsburg, Va. (Sept. 15, 2022) -- Obtaining more names from more source lists does not necessarily yield more representative jury pools, according to new research released this week by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC).

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 Paula Hannaford-Agor, director of NCSC’s Center for Jury Studies. “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. The choice of which source lists to use should be based on assessments of 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 NCSC’s Center for Jury Studies.