Public Hearing on Child Care for Jurors
On September 13, 2018, the Council of the City of Philadelphia passed Resolution 180755. The resolution authorizes the Committee on Law and Government to hold public hearings to examine the benefits of providing childcare in courtrooms for jurors and others involved in court business, and to evaluate the feasibility of instituting such a childcare system in Philadelphia.
This is a very interesting document and is worth taking the time to read. The Council recognized that there is a linkage between providing childcare and ensuring that juries are a fair cross section of the community. They cited to a 2016 report entitled Best Practices for Jury Selection and Service in Pennsylvania by the Pennsylvania Interbranch Commission for Gender, Racial and Ethnic Fairness and to a 2018 report by theJuror Participation Initiative Committee. From a national perspective, this resolution demonstrates that the hard and often tedious work of jury committees can lead to real improvements within their jury systems.
If your court implemented a child care program for jurors and you have noticed a change in the demographics of your jury panels, please send an email to Greg Hurley at email@example.com describing your observations.
A former jury coordinator in Alaska receives the 2018 G. Thomas Munsterman Award
(From left to right, Judge Trevor Stephens and Judge Michael MacDonald, Chief Justice Joel H. Bolger, former Senior Justice Dana Fabe, Pat Young and Greg Hurley, NCSC )
(From left to right, Chief Justice Joel H. Bolger, Greg Hurley, NCSC and Pat Young)
Williamsburg, Va., Oct. 10, 2018 – Pat Young, the statewide jury coordinator for Alaska from 2007 to 2016, is the recipient of the National Center for State Courts’ (NCSC) 2018 G. Thomas Munsterman Award for Jury Innovation. The Munsterman Award recognizes states, local courts, individuals and organizations that have made significant improvements or innovations in jury procedures, operations and practices.
Ms. Young, who received the award today at a judicial conference in Girdwood, Alaska, demonstrated exceptional leadership and project management skills in bringing together many different parts of the court system to propose and implement several significant jury management innovations. She led a team to spearhead the transition to a postcard notification, prompting jurors to complete an online questionnaire. That innovation saves the state about $70,000 a year. She also was a key player in encouraging the court system to undertake the development of updated jury videos, and she was instrumental in coordinating the development of a juror services web page. What’s more, she developed judicial training on juror utilization, which was new to Alaska and has led to improved juror utilization numbers, greater efficiency for jury clerks and a more respectful juror experience.
"I had the great privilege of meeting Pat Young in 2013 and was immediately impressed by her can-do attitude about jury system improvement,” says Paula Hannaford-Agor, director of NCSC’s Center for Jury Studies. “Her planning and dedication in carrying out a variety of jury improvement projects over the past five years has yielded great benefits for Alaska jurors.”
Superior Court Judge Trevor Stephens said, “Ms. Young’s performance of her general duties was excellent and worthy of recognition, but it was her leadership in the pioneering innovative changes of how the Alaska Court System interacts with jurors that is truly remarkable.”
Failure to Disclose a Hardship
The Missouri Court of Appeals issued an opinion in State v. Townsel on October 16, 2018. Ms. Townsel was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and armed criminal action. During voir dire, the jury was asked, “Does anyone have anything going on in their life that would distract them from being a fair and impartial juror in this case?” There was no response from the juror in question in this opinion. Following the verdict, the trial judge had a conversation with the juror and reported the following to the attorneys:
"And just in case you all were wondering what I was talking to the juror about, found out he buried his wife on Saturday. His wife passed away. And I said, well, you certainly would not have had to have served. He said, no. But I said, well, that’s above and beyond the call of civic duty, that’s for sure."
On appeal, the defendant claims that the trial judge should have granted a mistrial because the juror failed to answer the hardship question during voir dire honestly. The Missouri Court of Appeals disagreed. The jurors were asked if they had “anything going on in their life that would distract them from being a fair and impartial juror in this case?” The juror at issue obviously had something significant going on in his life but there is no indication that it would have affected his ability to be fair and impartial.
Juror Held in Contempt
The Ledger report on October 17, 2018 that juror Jaime Robles was temporarily held in contempt in Polk County, Florida. After the first day of a medical malpractice case, Mr. Robles reported to the court that he was having trouble understanding the lawyers and witnesses. Mr. Robles is originally from Puerto Rico. The newspaper reported that it was unclear whether his lack of understanding stemmed from a language barrier or the topic. Circuit Judge Catherine Combee told him to report for jury service the following morning. The next morning, she found that he had been untruthful with the court and held him in contempt. He was physical held in a detention area near the courtroom. Later that day during a contempt proceeding, Judge Combee reversed her prior ruling and released Mr., Robles