79 Judicature 216 (1995-1996)
A Brief History of State Jury Reform Efforts

handle is hein.journals/judica79 and id is 218 raw text is: A brief history of state jury reform efforts
Recent jury system changes in Arizona and New York are only the latest
in a series of reforms going back more than 30 years.
by G. Thomas Munsterman

n 1994 Arizona and New York is-
sued major jury reform reports'
that were important not only be-
cause of the changes that re-
sulted, but because of the direction
they provide to other states. The focus
of these reports is the jury-what can
be done to make this important func-
tion of democracy feasible for more
people? What methods will facilitate
its task and make the experience of
serving more rewarding?
As a result of the New York Jury
Project's recommendations, in July
1995, Chief Judge Judith Kaye listed
155 changes. These ranged from
higher fees for jurors, reduced terms
of service, and greater judicial supervi-
sion of voir dire to an 800 complaint
number and ajuror ombudsman. The
innovations in Arizona, discussed in
another article in this issue, also cover
the whole jury process from improved
follow up of non-responders to permit-
tingjurors to ask questions of witnesses
and to discuss the evidence prior to de-
liberations in civil cases. These two
state efforts at improving their jury sys-
tems represent the most recent and
G. THOMAS MUNSTERMAN is director of
the Center for Jury Studies, National Cen-
ter for State Courts.
most innovative efforts during a time
when the jury system is undergoing
great scrutiny. They also represent
state level acceptance of innovations
previously practiced by only individual

judges or courts.
There have also been many other
efforts at jury reform in the states in
the last 30 years. This article will ex-
amine a number of them. It is not
meant to be an authoritative history,
but a look at the major changes that
have led to notable and widespread
jury improvements.
Beginning in the 1960s the pace of
jury system change accelerated. Fuel-
ing efforts were the development of
court management, challenges to the
representativeness and the random-
ness of the jury selection process, the
desire to make jury systems mindful of
the citizen's time and the cost to com-
munities, and the availability of auto-
mation. While many changes were in
the more administrative areas of the
jury system, a number affected the
courtroom as well, particularly changes
in voir dire and the size ofjuries.
Judges provided the impetus for
some changes, legislators devised oth-
ers. Attendance at national confer-
ences and judicial workshops enabled
judges to share and discuss ideas. U.S.
Supreme Court decisions brought
some ideas to the fore, as when the
Court decided that juries of less than
12 were permissible. The Uniform Ser-
vice and Selection Act of 1970 con-
tained a number of improvements that
many states were inspired to adopt, sig-
nalling a movement away from highly
discretionary systems in which jury
commissioners were at liberty to in-
clude or exclude persons at will. Un-

der the act the source list had to begin
with the list of registered voters; others
could be added to expand inclusive-
ness. In addition, persons were not to
be excused because of their profession
and random procedures were to be
spelled out and documented. Jury
management was no longer an infor-
mal gathering of friends.
The '60s and '70s
Although not a conscious unified ef-
fort, a number of important changes
originated in Texas in the 1960s and
1970s and found their way into jury sys-
tems throughout the country. The first
was the use of a call-in system whereby
jurors call the courthouse the evening
before reporting to find out via a re-
cording whether or not to report.
The selection of several juries from a
single panel of prospective jurors with
the selected jury reporting several days
later for the start of the trial was first
reported in Beaumont, Texas. This
technique, called multiple voir dire, is
particularly useful in small courts
where concentrated voir dire provides
for wise use of jurors' time and more
rapid voir dires. And then there was
the idea of the firecracker jury, in-
troduced in Houston in 1971. Persons
were called in to participate in only
one voir dire. If selected, they served
on only that one trial. If not selected,
1. THEJURY PROJECT, REPORT TO THE CHIEFJUDGE OF
THE STATE OF NEW YORK (March 31, 1994);JURORS:
THE POWERS OF 12, Report of the Arizona Supreme
Court Committee on More Effective Use of Juries,
(November 1994).

216 Judicature Volume 79, Number 5  March-April 1996

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