Each year, millions of Californians serve their communities and uphold the fundamental American ideal of the right to a trial by jury. Juror Appreciation Week is one way the California courts thank these citizens for fulfilling their obligation and ensuring the justice system guarantees that right for everyone.
Making the Jury System Better for Jurors
Following are some recent initiatives to improve the jury system in California:
- Recent legislation enables jurors to get reimbursed for mileage expenses both to and from court—the legislation also authorizes courts to partner with local public transit to provide low-cost or no-cost roundtrip transportation during jury service (see Los Angeles court’s partnership)
- Courts are increasing their use of telephone standby and on-call options for people called for jury service—often individuals can check the night before, or even the week before, to check if they need to come to court in person.
- Courts have expanded access to online jury portals, where individuals can check dates of service, sign up for reminders, and request postponements and excusals—some portals even allow users to contact jury department staff with concerns, get information about court procedures, and obtain proof of service for employers. (see example of jury portal)
- To increase the diversity of jury pools, courts are now using three source lists—Department of Motor Vehicles, local Registrar of Voters, and Franchise Tax Bureau—to summon people for jury service
- An updated juror orientation video with an accompanying video vignette shows potential jurors what to expect, includes new information on best practices in jury operations, and highlights the importance of a diverse jury pool (see orientation video)
Additional Improvements to Jury Service Over the Years
Following are a few more ways California courts have made the civic right and obligation of jury service more convenient for its citizens:
- One Day or One Trial Jury Service: California has one-day or one-trial jury service. If not chosen for a jury panel after one day of service at the courthouse, a juror’s service is done for at least one year. If you are selected to serve on a jury, after the trial is over your service is also completed for at least a year and often longer. In fact, the majority of people who report for jury service serve for just one day.
- Postponement Allowed: California courts allow summoned jurors to postpone jury duty at least once. Rule 2.1004 of the California Rules of Court states that if the request is made under penalty of perjury in writing and in accordance with the court's local procedure, the jury commissioner should not require the prospective juror to appear at court to make the request in person. Further postponements may be granted at the court's discretion.
- Plain-Language Jury Instructions: The Judicial Council created legally accurate plain-language jury instructions that are readily understood by the average juror. The council’s advisory committees on jury instructions regularly review new case law and statutes and make recommendations to the council for updating the instructions. Use of the new jury instructions is “strongly encouraged” and are recommended unless a judge “finds that a different instruction would more accurately state the law and be understood by jurors.”
- Raising Juror Pay: The Superior Court of San Francisco County is piloting a program created by state legislation to increase the diversity of jurors able to serve by raising juror pay to $100 per day for low- and middle-income individuals.
Juror Appreciation Week
In 1998, the California Legislature designated the second full week in May to honor the sacrifices and contributions of citizens who devote their time and effort to "making the cherished right of trial by jury a reality and to raise awareness about their contribution to our courts."