The New Hampshire Superior Court announced last week that it would soon implement a new computerized jury management selection that should benefit jurors, court personnel, and lawyers alike.
The new system, expected to be operational late this summer, will assign each prospective juror an online access code that will permit the juror to complete the demographic questionnaire, request to be excused or to reschedule jury service, and check on required reporting dates for jury service. Jurors with no access to the internet will continue to complete the existing paper forms.
The jurors’ questionnaire responses will be compiled by court staff and made available in a pdf document to lawyers who have cases scheduled for trial in the session. Under current practice, lawyers may either review the completed forms in the clerk’s office, or pay a fee to borrow a paper copy. Unless the fee is paid, lawyers have no access to the forms during the most crucial time–the actual selection of the jury.
The new system should also ease the burden on court personnel, who now spend significant time collating and reproducing the juror questionnaires. The system will also allow clerks and judges to review jurors’ requests to be excused and respond electronically. An additional feature will permit clerks to schedule automated telephone calls to large groups of jurors when there is a schedule change or cancellation.
The technology behind the system is not particularly new or sophisticated by current standards, but because of financial constraints, most state courts have lagged behind private businesses in taking advantage of computerized systems.
When implemented, the New Hampshire system should be vastly superior to Massachusetts, where lawyers usually receive no information about prospective jurors until the jurors are filing into the courtroom. Court personnel struggle to collect, collate, and copy reams of paper every day, while jurors are often frustrated by the inability to get a response on the automated call-in telephone lines.