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Western District keeps jurors happy

Here’s one way to keep the populace happy: Don’t have them jump into a federal jury pool when they likely will not have to serve.

That “juror utilization” metric is something court administrators track, and the Federal Judicial Center has announced that Virginia’s Western District was one of five federal courts that improved its juror utilization rate by 10 percentage points in the last year.

For the 12-month period ending June 30, 2012, the FJC measured courts’ averages of jurors “not selected, serving or challenged” for an NSSC rate on the first day of jury service. An NSSC national average of 37 percent meant 3,450 potential jurors were not brought to a courthouse unnecessarily. That’s out of a total of 236,070 jurors called.

Federal courts have been working to lower their NSSC rates since they reached a high of 40 percent in 2009, and the FJC began holding workshops and advising courts on how to save money by summoning smaller panels.

“Best practices” include consolidating or “bunching” trials to start only on specific days of the week, “pooling” or sharing a group of prospective jurors among several judges and staggering trial starts throughout the jury selection day. It also helps to limit the number of individuals called on any given day in notorious trials to those who can be voir dired, either individually or as a group, the FJC says.
–Deborah Elkins

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