An unusually high 82 percent of those called for jury service in New York State do not make it on to juries, the New York Times reports. “Wow, that figure just struck me between the eyes,” said Judith S. Kaye, the state’s chief judge.
Tom Munsterman of the National Center for State Courts says the rate in federal courts across the country is about 76 percent, and in Los Angeles courts, 80 percent. “You can do better, but you’ll never bring it down to zero percent or even 20 or 30 percent,” he said. “I think we’d like to see it around 70 percent.”
New York State uses the one day or one trial system for potential jurors. “Every day people tell me how great it is that they were in and out in a day and I say, `No! That’s not the purpose of the reforms,’ ” Judge Kaye said. ” `It’s not for you to see the inside of a courthouse, it’s for you to participate in the justice system.’ ”
So Judge Kaye appointed a 28-member commission last spring to try to untangle the 82 percent problem. It is worth studying, she said, because is that having so many people report to the jury room only to be rejected leaves the public with a negative impression of what it means to perform one of the core duties of citizenship. Also, dismissing so many people is a waste of time and money for both the potential juror and the courts.
The 118 trial courtrooms in state civil and criminal courts in Manhattan require 1,800 to 2,000 jurors and prospective jurors each day, many of whom spend several days there. Most prospective jurors in Manhattan are sent home after two or three days if they are not selected for trials. Each year, 500,000 people serve across the state, 100,000 of them in Manhattan.