Baltimore City Circuit Court Launches New Jury Management System
Includes newly designed questionnaire to streamline process for prospective jurors
(BALTIMORE – Feb. 8, 2012) The Circuit Court for Baltimore City will launch a new jury management system on Monday, Feb. 13, including a streamlined “one-step” summons-questionnaire that should save time for prospective jurors. The new system uses updated technology such as bar scanning, imaging, and Internet access and processing to make jury summoning and scheduling more efficient.
“This new system has proven to be a great enhancement in other courts in Maryland where it has been implemented over the past three years, and we hope that these new efficiencies and streamlined processes will improve our jurors’ experience overall,” said Judge Marcella Holland, administrative judge for the Baltimore City Circuit Court. “More than 800 jury trials are impaneled in our court each year. Jurors are absolutely essential to our system of justice, and we want to do all we can to show our appreciation for those who serve in this critical role.”
Baltimore City citizens may notice several changes, including a combined questionnaire and summons that gives recipients the option of completing and submitting the questionnaire online instead of having to mail it back to the courthouse.
“Under the old system, jurors received two separate mailings: first a qualification form, then a summons. We think this new single mailing, a one-step process, will be a huge improvement for Baltimore residents, not to mention that the online option will also result in substantial savings in postal costs,” says Nancy Dennis, jury commissioner. “The only exception to being able to submit online is when support documentation is needed for excusals.”
Potential jurors who have been designated as qualified can also go online to move their report date one time, if needed, to a date that is more convenient. “Sending a notice to jurors that they need to report to the courthouse six weeks down the road can sometimes cause conflicts,” Dennis said. “Allowing jurors the option to pick their report date, within a reasonable period of time and allowing for certain exceptions such as court holidays and high volume days, is a great advantage for jurors.” That has been the experience of other courts that have implemented this system, and Dennis also hopes the flexibility provided by the new system will help to cut down on the high volume of postponement requests that now flood her office. It is estimated in other courts that between a third and a half of the anticipated jury pool will go online to complete their qualification questionnaire.
During the transition to the new system, Baltimore City will use the court’s website (http://www.baltocts.state.md.us/jury/index.html) to inform jurors of their responsibilities and what to expect on their day of service, including posting daily “report or not to report” information. “We are finding that jurors are becoming increasingly comfortable with using the Internet to get information, and there is less dependence on traditional methods, such as phone systems, to get last minute instructions,” Dennis said, adding that jurors who prefer to use the telephone to get updates will still be able to do so.
Once jurors report to the courthouse, the new system will speed up and improve the check-in process. On any given day, approximately 275 to 350 people report for jury service in Baltimore City. Through the use of bar coding and other scanning technologies, Judge Holland anticipates that the new system will allow panels of jurors to be ready for court more quickly and efficiently. Staff can notify potential jurors when forms have not been completed or lack necessary information. They can also monitor jurors who do not report for their required jury service.
Funding for this project was made possible through the Maryland Judiciary’s Administrative Office of the Courts in a statewide effort that has installed the system in 14 circuit courts throughout Maryland. For more information about the new system, visit the Baltimore City Circuit Court jury service website, http://www.baltocts.state.md.us/jury/index.html.
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