The following article is by Elizabeth W. Stephenson, Court Administrator in Ohio.
The Court of Common Pleas, General Trial Division, along with Clerk of Courts Jeanne Stephen has improved its methods of juror notification. The process of notifying jurors begins with a summons from the Sheriff that tells them the two-week period that they are on call for jury duty. Following that initial notification, the jurors traditionally needed to telephone a certain number to find out when they need to report. The newest improvement to the system is that the court has contracted with a software vendor called Juror Calling so that a notification goes out to jurors the night before they need to report. Jurors will receive a text, an email and an automated message with reporting instructions. Jurors also receive a text and call on the day they are to report.
Jurors can also be notified if a trial is cancelled for any reason. This method is in addition to the website and the traditional method of the juror calling a certain number the night before their service to find out if they are obligated to report.
Because people’s lives are very busy, and we routinely receive reminders from hair salons and doctor offices, we have come to need and expect these reminders. We decided that it was time for us to do a better job of getting reminders out to our jurors, using modern technology. In the past, jurors would forget to call to find out the reporting date, or they forgot to come to jury duty and instead go to work. Then the clerk’s office staff would have to call jurors while the courtroom participants wait until the juror leaves work and drives to the courthouse. The new reminder system has almost eliminated all of those problems. There are reporting days with 100% turnout from the jurors from whom we received a questionnaire and therefore phone numbers.
We very carefully made the decision to use cell, landline, and text messages within this notification system. We can’t send messages using different methods to jurors within one group. So the whole panel of prospective jurors must receive the same messages using the same methods. Many people only have landlines. Many younger people only have cell numbers. And some people who have cell numbers do not set up their voicemail. So, we need to call cell numbers and landline numbers, as well as a text message to cell phones. We have not had any complaints about the redundant messages.
Another improvement that our court made last year is that we upgraded the website and now it includes reporting information for prospective jurors. The Clerk’s office makes a quick change to the website daily so that the reporting information is current. This way, jurors can check the website to find out whether they need to report for jury duty.
For more information, contact Elizabeth W. Stephenson, Court Administrator, 330-365-3299; firstname.lastname@example.org