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Using Jury Surveys and Questionnaires

Peggy Brown, for Hostedware Corporation

 

District courts across the nation use automated procedures for selecting prospective jurors from drivers' license and voters' records. State specified software selects prospective jury pools from these database records on a random basis; the number selected determined by the county jury coordinator. The software often also allows them to print labels and generate a cover letter and survey for completion by each person selected for the jury pool. These automated measures save countless hours.


However, what happens once the surveys are sent usually means hand processing, taxing the overburdened court system many unnecessary hours. Several Kansas District Court jury coordinators indicated no in place automation process when receiving returned surveys. Rather they must open and complete an analysis of each survey by hand.


First jury coordinators review surveys for acceptable excuses from jury duty (bed ridden and terminally ill people, young people away at college, etc.). Next, while voters' records exclude convicted felons, jury coordinators must hand exclude surveys indicating a felony conviction because of the inclusion of driver's license records.


Even after obtaining a qualified jury pool, additional survey respondents may be excluded on a case by case basis depending on possible relationships with victims, witnesses, attorneys, the case judge, or the potential juror being in someway connected to the case (victim of a similar crime, close relative of a victim, employee of a business involved in the case, etc.).


The surveys, often known as questionnaires within the court system, illicit background information from respondents, allowing not only the jury coordinator's exclusion of unsuitable or excusable jurors; but also, courts frequently allow review of the questionnaires by attorneys connected to the case.


The questionnaire covers far more information than attorneys usually extract from potential jurors during voir dire (the process where attorneys of a specific case ask verbal questions of the jury pool) and frequently shorten the voir dire process when attorneys review questionnaires prior to the vior dire process. Instead of an attorney asking each potential juror the fundamental questions related to employment, case-related experiences and bias issues connected with cause challenges, obtain this information by questionnaire before the potential juror walks into the court room.


Public disclosure often inhibits a potential juror from answering candidly and completely verbally. Written responses also allow more time for reflection. Attorneys also benefit from reflection time; ensuring questions are well worded, not invasive without cause and not potentially embarrassing.
Judges sometimes object that gathering this information might invade a juror's privacy. Asking these same questions in court before attorneys, parties, and possible news reporters ranks much higher as a potential for privacy invasion.

Asking a juror their experience with psychiatrists and psychologists could extract very beneficial information for attorneys on both sides of a case involving some type of psychological element. Knowing a juror's ability to read and comprehend is also very important question. However, asking a juror to respond verbally about these issues usually isn't done (leaving an important question unasked) because of the potential for embarrassment. Imagine having to publicly disclose counseling with psychiatrists and psychologists or an inability to read! (A written questionnaire could be filled out by a family member without ever disclosing reading issues.)


Attorneys report written questionnaire answers contain candid and insightful information, allowing attorneys more leeway in asking personal questions and making selection of a jury easier. Too often attorneys give this questionnaire too low of a priority. Don't neglect one of the best weapons for trial strategy!


Potential jurors often feel less intimidated in providing information on a survey form rather than answering verbally before the judge and attorneys. They tend to elaborate more in writing, where in the court settling they might provide only one word answers. In complex litigation, attorneys may even request more complex questionnaires be given to some potential jurors.


Use supplemental questionnaires for obtaining sensitive information which might embarrass a juror or promote less than completely candid answers.


Automating the questionnaire for the jury selection means a substantial savings of court personnel's and case attorneys' time. HostedSurvey provides an easy time saver by offering:

  • Secure server processing
  • Customizable questionnaire forms
  • Multiple choice, one word and expanded answers available
  • Assigned numbers for court's matching with juror names
  • Jury pool selection by disqualifying or qualifying criteria can be changed for each case
  • Savings on postage for questionnaires taken on line rather than returned in postage paid envelopes
  • Savings of court personnel time reviewing and complying statistical data
  • Savings of court personnel and case attorneys' time by receipt of candid information rapidly
  • Easily sorted and searched by customized criteria
  • Much easier to read than numerous styles of handwriting
  • Searchable
  • Statistics available
  • Reasonably priced

Counties often require destruction or return of copies of juror questionnaires given to case attorneys and require a copying fee. Attorneys or their assistants are allowed to take notes but may not copy the questionnaires. HostedSurvey solves these issues by allowing viewing of surveys without need for copying. Assign respondents specific codes for matching with the juror name at the court house, requiring no readily identifiable information on the survey form. This also may prevent juror selection based on surnames and bias. Strictly control questionnaire viewing by assigned passwords and user identification.


Currently, without email addresses, survey questionnaires still need to be mailed to the entire jury pool. Over time, counties and states may wish to add an email address block to drivers' license and voters' registration forms for completion on a voluntary basis. In the meantime, a form on the county's website could allow the jury population to submit this information voluntarily in order to save the expense of mailing out questionnaires.


Realize instant savings by providing a URL in your cover letter (assigned by HostedSurvey) for response. Save the metered prepaid postage on return envelopes along with personnel time of sorting and reviewing.


Typically when requiring an in-depth questionnaire beyond the scope of the usual questionnaire sent out by district courts, opposing attorneys meet, both submitting questions they feel necessary to the process. The judge or an assignee then reviews the questions agreed upon by opposing attorneys and makes determinations regarding any unsolved issues with questions.


Once again, HostedSurvey easily accommodates this requirement so that all necessary parties know which questions were submitted by which counsel, which questions are approved by both, which questions have been removed by agreement and identifies any outstanding questions for the judge's review and determination. All this done without passing correspondence through the mail, without secretaries redlining various versions of a document and without attorneys being left to wonder which document is most current. Completely automate the jury process and save time and money.

Sample juror questionaires

 

N.D. Tex. sample
D. Kan. sample
S.D.N.Y. sample
S.D.N.Y. sample
E.D. Va. sample


Peggie Brown, experienced paralegal, freelance author and founder of Katsuey's Legal Gateway (www.katsuey.com).

 

Hostedware Corporation is a pioneer in providing online software solutions for research, education and performance improvement. Hosted Survey and Hosted Test are used by human resources professionals, market researchers, education and training organizations and membership associations worldwide.

 

 

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