Many Judges Acting To Protect Juror Privacy


When a Baton Rouge defense lawyer asked for an anonymous jury in a cop-killer case this February, Louisiana judge Michael Erwin decided there would be no jury picked behind closed doors or names kept secret in his court, says the ABA Journal. “The [U.S.] Constitution says that the defendant is entitled to a public and speedy trial,” Erwin says. “If the government can't do that, then they shouldn't prosecute you.”

Yet concerns over privacy have many judges in the awkward position of defining public. “When I think of anonymous juries, I think of the litigants not knowing the names of the jurors,”says U.S. District Judge Susan R. Bolton of Phoenix. Bolton gives jury rosters to parties but selects jurors by number and then seals their names at trial's end in both criminal and civil proceedings. The Judicial Conference of the United States, which sets policy for the federal courts, put “documents containing identifying information about jurors or potential jurors” on a 2003 list of “documents for which public access should not be provided.” Many judges say they have no problem with some form of an anonymous jury, so long as prosecutors and defendants know the names. “I've definitely heard from judges that they're becoming more concerned about issues relating to juror privacy,” says Paula Hannaford-Agor of the Center for Jury Studies at the National Center for State Courts in Williamsburg, Va. Hannaford-Agor concedes, “I'm not seeing any consensus about the best way to protect juror privacy.”


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