August 21, 2008
JURY SELECTION POOL AND EXEMPTIONS
By: Christopher Reinhart, Senior Attorney
You asked (1) why the law was expanded to require the Judicial Branch to use multiple lists to compile its jury selection pool and (2) whether any states exempt violent crime victims from jury service.
Connecticut's law on how the jury administrator creates a master file for summoning jurors has changed over the years. The most significant change in recent years came in 1996. PA 06-179 expanded the lists of people used to make up the jury pool to include motor vehicle owners, state personal income taxpayers, and public assistance and unemployment compensation recipients, in addition to the registered voters and licensed motor vehicle operators previously required by law.
The legislative history of the 1996 change indicates that it was intended to expand the jury pool. Because the process of compiling the master file was limited to registered voters and licensed motor vehicle operators at the time, some legislators argued that it left out a significant part of the population. Legislators stated that using more lists would provide a more representative group of people for the jury pool.
The law has changed several times since 1996, including in 1997 when PA 97-200 made some changes to the process and removed two lists from the process of compiling the master file. Connecticut law currently requires the jury administrator to create the master file from voter, licensed driver, unemployment compensation recipient, and state personal income taxpayer lists (CGS § 51-222a).
Under Connecticut law, certain people are disqualified or exempt from serving on a jury. Connecticut law does not exempt violent crime victims from jury service.
We only found one state with a law that exempts some crime victims. Pennsylvania's law exempts spouses, children, siblings, parents, grandparents, and grandchildren of criminal homicide victims (42 Pa.C.S. § 4503). Attached are two documents comparing exemptions from jury service in the 50 states (Bureau of Justice Statistics, State Court Organization 2004; Anne Skove, National Center for State Courts, Jury Management, Exemptions from Jury Duty Memorandum, May 2, 2006).
CONNECTICUT 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, she 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 or she 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, (3) constitutional officers and judges during their terms of office, and (4) those who have performed jury service within the past three years and have not submitted a request to be summoned. The law disqualifies these people from jury service. Anyone who is requesting an exclusion because he or she is permanently disabled or age 70 or older must give the jury administrator his or her 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 or her 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
The law automatically excludes people from jury service if they have served in the past three years, but allows them to send a written notice to the jury administrator requesting that they be summoned for jury service in the same manner as others (CGS § 51-217a as amended by PA 08-103). 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).
LEGISLATIVE HISTORY OF PA 96-179
PA 96-179 changed the process of compiling the master file for summoning jurors. The act's legislative history indicates that it was intended to expand the jury pool. Below is a sample of comments made by legislators while debating the bill in the House and Senate.
● Sen. Upson stated, “The problem is, Madam President, in many areas, especially in the larger municipalities, we are not getting a true cross section of the public in our jury pools and the problem is that some people do not, are not registered operators of a motor vehicle or they're not voters, and if we had a spirit of inclusion, including everyone, and we included new people to the list, then we would truly have a cross section (Senate Transcript, April 23, 1996).”
● Sen. Upson stated, “So it's significant in the fact that we're for the first time in I don't know how many years, we're expanding the jury pool in the State of Connecticut to include all people. And I think that's an important step for this state to do. And especially in the big cities, where if you walk through a jury pool, it is not a representative pool for those people in the State of Connecticut” (Senate Transcript, April 30, 1996).
● Sen. Coleman stated, “I think it goes a long way toward making service on juries inclusionary, and accessible to all segments of our population. And I think that in turn will go a long way toward dispelling some of the cynicism and the skepticism and the suspicion that is oftentimes directed at our court system, and our entire system of justice” (Senate Transcript, April 30, 1996).
● Sen. Upson, in response to comments by Sen. Bozek, stated, “So there's no guarantee in any jury that you're going to get people who are completely fair, completely partial, or completely interested. But yet the process of a true jury system is to, is of inclusion. And to have a true jury pool, you're not just supposed to select from one group…And I think that in the long run, this process will bring more people into the system, so to speak, and make it more a true democratic system. And certainly, a more democratic choice for jury pools” (Senate Transcript, April 30, 1996).
● Sen. Harp stated, “I want to commend the chairman of Judiciary for expanding our pool and assuring that we do have a wider pool of people to select from” (Senate Transcript, April 30, 1996).
● Sen Sullivan stated, “If we want to sustain the integrity of our judicial system, and we do, then we have an obligation to say that that system is responsive to and representative of the totality of who we are as a people. And whether it comes from a concern for diversity or perhaps even more importantly, a concern that we are all one under law, that if that is our principle, that we are all one under law, then all of us must have an opportunity to participate in the decisions of our judicial system” (Senate Transcript, April 30, 1996).
● Sen. Bozek, “My remarks are, the people who wish to participate in the process have to knock on the door. The doors are wide open. People don't think that it's serious enough or involved for them. What's important is, if they want to participate in a process, they should raise their hand. They should register. They should come forward. Nobody, nobody is going to exclude anybody from the process. This, what we have is, we have a process that sort of pulls people in because of, in my opinion, poor arguments…Just the idea that, are we going to go out and kind of pull people in, when actually these people didn't take the time to volunteer and make the effort to want to serve” (Senate Transcript, April 30, 1996).
● Rep. Lawlor stated, “First of all, for the juror selection process commencing on September 1st of next year, September 1, 1997, the names which are -- which go into the jury selection pool, in other words, the persons who are summoned to jury duty will consist of, in addition to, the current system which summons registered voters and persons who are licensed drivers in the State of Connecticut who are also residents of the State of Connecticut, shall also include residents of this state who have a permanent place of abode in this state and who are subject to taxation on personal income. In other words, people may not be registered voters or licensed drivers, who are paying the state income tax. And in addition to that group, recipients of public assistance of the state and in addition to that group, recipients of unemployment compensation. So in other words, Mr. Speaker, the end result would be a list that would contain people who may not be in the current pool because they are not registered voters or licensed drivers, but people who may be taxpayers or recipients of public assistance or recipients of unemployment compensation” (House Transcript, May 7, 1996).
● Rep. Lawlor stated, “The theory is that there may be people who live in our state who are neither registered voters or licensed drivers who are therefore not summoned for jury duty. So there are other lists available to the state from which jurors could be summoned and those people may not be licensed drivers or registered voters…So the theory is we would have a more representative group of persons being summoned to jury duty” (House Transcript, May 7, 1996).