Topic:
JURIES; LEGISLATION;
Location:
JURIES;

OLR Research Report


August 10, 2006

 

2006-R-0497

JURY DUTY

 

By: Sandra Norman-Eady, Chief Attorney

You asked for a summary of the jury selection process and if any bills have been proposed in recent years to change it.

SUMMARY

The jury administrator selects juror names at random from a jury pool list compiled from voter, licensed driver, unemployment compensation recipient, and state personal income taxpayer lists. The administrator annually combines the lists, deleting duplicate names where possible so that names only appear once. According to current Jury Administrator Karen Berris, over 584,722 jurors have been summoned for jury duty during the current court year; which runs from September 1, 2005 through August 31, 2006. It is too soon to tell how many of those summoned actually served because emergency summonses were recently issued in the Windham County Judicial District. However, during court year 04-05, 576,746 summonses were served and 110,487 people served at least one day.

During the past five years, a number of bills were introduced that would have changed the jury selection process. The overwhelming majority of these bills proposed to exempt certain groups from jury service. The remainder sought to impose penalties for failure to serve or respond to a jury summons. None of these bills became law.

JURY SELECTION PROCESS

Compiling the Jury Pool List

Once a year, the jury administrator estimates the number of jurors each judicial district will need for the upcoming year. Among other factors, he considers the number of judges assigned to jury trials, the type of cases that will come to trial during the period, and the past experiences of the courts (CGS 51-219b). The administrator divides the number of jurors proportionally among the state's 169 towns according to each town's population from the most recent U.S. census (CGS 51-220).

The jury administrator creates a jury pool list from voter, licensed driver, unemployment compensation recipient, and state personal income taxpayer lists. The administrator annually combines the lists, deleting duplicate names where possible so that names only appear once. Jurors are selected at random from the list to meet the court system's needs (CGS 51-222a). The random selection system gives each person on the list the same probability of being selected as every other person.

The jury administrator may adjust the number of jurors from each town within a judicial district if the number is too low or too high. She apportions the change among all of the towns within the judicial district in proportion to the town populations when possible (CGS 51-219c).

The chief court administrator can authorize the jury administrator to use the previous year's master file to summon jurors if the new one is unavailable or defective (CGS 51-222a (d)).

People Disqualified From Jury Service

Jurors must be at least age 18 and electors or U.S. citizens who are residents with a home in the state. A person is disqualified from jury service if he:

1. has a quality (but not deafness or hearing impairment) that the judge finds impairs his capacity to serve as a juror;

2. had a felony conviction in the past seven years, is a defendant in a pending felony case, or is in the custody of the correction commissioner;

3. cannot speak and understand English;

4. is a constitutional officer;

5. is a family support magistrate or judge of the probate court, Superior Court, Appellate Court, Supreme Court, or federal court;

6. is a member of the General Assembly while in session;

7. is age 70 or older and chooses not to perform jury service; or

8. is incapable of rendering satisfactory jury service due to physical or mental disability (with a letter from a licensed physician stating his opinion) (CGS 51-217).

The jury administrator may excuse a person for extreme hardship (CGS 51-217(b)). She can also cancel jury service for good cause, including when (1) the called juror's town of residence is switched to a different judicial district than the one to which he was originally called and (2) there is a reduced need for jurors. If jury service is canceled for the latter reason, the jury administrator must excuse people on a random basis (CGS 51-219a).

Exclusions from the Summoning Process

The jury administrator is authorized to create and maintain a list of people to be excluded from the juror summoning process. The list must include (1) people permanently disqualified from jury duty because of a disability, (2) people age 70 or older who ask not to be summoned, and (3) constitutional officers and judges during their terms of office. The law disqualifies these people from jury service. Anyone who is requesting an exclusion because he is permanently disabled or age 70 or older must give the jury administrator his name, address, date of birth, and federal Social Security number for use in matching names. A disabled person must also submit a letter from a licensed physician stating that the disability is permanent and prevents him from giving satisfactory jury service. A person can rescind a request to be excluded at any time by written notice to the jury administrator (CGS 51-217(c)).

The constitutional officers are the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of the state, treasurer, comptroller, and attorney general. Judges include family support magistrates and judges of the Supreme, Appellate, Superior, or probate courts.

Also, the public health commissioner must annually give the jury administrator the most recent list of deceased people. The administrator can remove these names from the jury pool and also remove the names of other deceased people if the public health commissioner provides the death certificates or other satisfactory proof (CGS 51-219a (d)).

Exemptions for Previous Service

People called for jury service must be excused, at their request, if they were called and not excused from service during the preceding three years (CGS 51-217a). A person is not credited with service if he was excused or if his service was canceled before he actually came into court. But he is given credit if he was in court and available for service for as little as one day and did not ask to be excused.

When the number of jurors available for service for a jury year is exhausted, a juror may be impaneled if it is at least three months since his previous attendance as a juror. The provisions excusing service within three years and limits on the length of jury service do not apply in these circumstances (CGS 51-232b).

BILLS ON JURY SELECTION

During the past five years, 13 bills were introduced that would have affected jury selection. Of these bills, 10 proposed exemptions from jury service and the remaining three imposed penalties for evading services. None of the bills became law. Table 1 briefly summarizes each bill by number and year of introduction.

Table 1: Bills Affecting Jury Selection

Year

Bill Number

Summary

2001

SB 1186

Required the chief court administrator to establish a process for imposing civil sanctions on people who fail to appear for jury duty without a valid excuse

 

HB 5859

Exempted high school students from jury duty

2002

SB 560

● Subjected people who fail to appear for jury duty without a valid excuse to a civil penalty of up to $200

● Clarified that wages paid by an employer to a juror for jury service are subject to state wage enforcement statutes

2003

SB 527

Exempted parents of young children from jury duty

 

HB 5028

Exempted state and municipal police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical services personnel from jury duty in times of heightened security risks

 

HB 5176

Exempted full-time firefighters from jury duty

 

HB 5525

Exempted from jury duty single parents and self-employed persons who earn less than $48,000 a year

 

HB 6431

● Established a two-step civil/criminal penalty for people who fail to respond to juror summonses. First offenders who failed to appear without a valid excuse were subject to civil fines of up to $200. Subsequent offenses were class C misdemeanors.

● Removed the jury service exemption for legislators during legislative sessions

2004

HB 5295

Exempted from jury service practicing surgeons and active service U.S. or state military personnel

2005

SB 261

Exempted full-time students from jury duty

 

HB 5214

Exempted students from jury duty

 

HB 5391

Exempted from jury duty active duty military personnel stationed or deployed outside of the state

 

HB 6877

Exempted students from jury duty

SN-E:ro