The jury system is the cornerstone of our system of justice, but in many parts of California the jury system is in a state of crisis.
The system is premised on the participation of a broad cross section of citizens. However, obtaining a representative jury pool is increasingly problematic.
Low response rates to jury questionnaires and summonses plague some jurisdictions.
Hardship for many
Jury service can be a real hardship for many people and current juror compensation of $5 a day does almost nothing to reduce this. Child care responsibilities and transportation problems also create barriers to jury service.
It appears that fewer employers today pay employees for time spent in jury service.
Long terms of jury service, long stays at the courthouse waiting to be called and poor courthouse facilities for jurors also deter participation.
Deterrents to jury service often mean that only those who are either wealthy, retired, receiving governmental assistance, or have an employer who will pay for jury service can afford to serve on a jury.
The problems of the California jury system have been well-documented in recent years.
In 1996, the Judicial Council’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Jury System Improvement issued an extensive report which concluded that “[t]he jury system in California is on the brink of collapse.”
The State Bar was a co-sponsor of the Blue Ribbon Commission and independently convened several forums of civil and criminal practitioners to identify ways of improving the jury system.
Reduce the burden
The commission and participants at the State Bar forums both concluded that to revitalize the jury system we must reduce the inconvenience and burden of jury service.
Chief Justice Ronald George, in his recent state of the judiciary message, called for major improvements in the jury system to eliminate present disincentives for citizens to serve.