Some very easy things the government can do to immediately improve the turnout rate for jury duty:
The purpose of this section is to tie together many of the points that have been made throughout this book. The absence of the items in the list below is not an excuse for avoiding jury duty if you can reasonably serve either when called or on a rescheduled date. It is simply a consolidated list of suggestions for thought and/or discussion.
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- Make it very easy for people to reschedule their service to a more convenient date by speaking to a live person on the phone who will not ask why rescheduling is necessary.
- Be accepting of last-minute emergencies that require rescheduling, and do not ask people to provide personal details about the matter that can easily be fabricated.
- Ensure that all court staff treat jurors at all times with the utmost of respect. (Admittedly, this is more of a problem in big cities and/or in certain parts of the country).
- Ensure that conditions in the juror waiting room are extremely comfortable. It doesn't have to be the proverbial “Waldorf Astoria,” but it should not be reminiscent of a dayroom in a minimum-security prison. If nothing else, it should have comfortable seating, good natural light, and good ventilation. Jurors should not feel like they are “packed in like sardines.” Bathroom facilities should be clean and appropriately-sized based on the capacity of the waiting room.
- Microwave ovens and a refrigerator should be available for jurors to use for snacks and/or lunch. Tables to eat lunch should be available and plentiful. A water cooler as well as complimentary coffee and tea should be available, keeping in mind that jurors may be asked to wait for many hours, and will likely become increasingly sleepy in the process. A “quiet room” should be available for jurors who want to read or work without distraction, or who don't want to listen to their fellow jurors share stories about jury duty.
- Workstations with electrical outlets should be available for people who want to bring a laptop or charge their electronic devices. Free wi-fi with reasonable speed should be available.
- Every effort should be made to keep waiting time to a minimum. A staff member should provide frequent updates as to what is going on so that jurors are not “kept in the dark.”
- Compensation for money needed for transportation should be provided in cash on the day of service to jurors who fill out a simple form stating that such is necessary based on their financial situation. Jury duty should not have any negative financial impact on anyone who is poor or struggling financially.
- Stop the “threatening” tone and language on juror summonses. Everyone knows that budget restrictions along with the will of The People make it difficult if not impossible for the government to penalize and/or follow up on no-shows. Instead, explain the importance of jury service, and provide encouragement and motivation.
- Pay jurors a reasonable (and certainly a non-laughable) wage if they aren't already being paid by their employer. Jurors should be paid at least twice the minimum wage considering the intellectual and social nature of the work that is being expected of them. Serving on a jury is not a low-skilled and/or entry-level job.
- Stop calling the jury duty summons a “summons.” I don't care if it is the technically accurate legal term—it has a negative connotation. Call it a “notice to appear.” The government will accomplish more by dropping the attitude of “do this or else,” and by switching to one of encouragement and treating people as human beings. Also, “money talks.” See above.
- Include written wording in the jury summons such that people feel appreciated. Include verbal dialog from courtroom staff such that people who do show up for jury duty feel appreciated.
- Let people know in advance what to expect when they show up for jury duty. This can be done by way of pictures, video clips, and simple explanations. At a minimum, the “orientation” video that is shown to jurors in the jury room should be posted online for jurors to watch in advance. Portray the staff as friendly, helpful, and competent. Because of the entertainment industry, many people have a mental image of judges and courtroom staff as individuals who are perpetually angry and/or bumbling.
- Have a “juror liaison” in or near the jury waiting room who can answer all questions and address all concerns.
- Make it clear on the jury duty summons that people can call ahead with questions and concerns, and speak to a live friendly person who will be helpful and who is knowledgeable. People fear uncertainty and the unknown, and people are not comfortable outside of their routine and comfort zone. Take any measures necessary to ensure that prospective jurors do not have anything to be concerned about.
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