Modern Jury Messaging Offers Convenience, Safety

December 08, 2022 by Peter Friesen

Modern Jury Messaging Offers Convenience, Safety

When called for jury duty, the first thought can be annoyance over missing work, dealing with scheduling, and spending time waiting in the courthouse. This annoyance is compounded when jurors find poor communication from courts regarding cancellations or rescheduling.

Jury duty doesn’t have to be a frustrating mystery, however. By leveraging a modern jury management solution with advanced communication features, both jurors and staff can experience a smoother process from initial jury selection all the way through trial. And, with a greater emphasis on the constituent’s time, jurors are more likely to cooperate and might even look forward to serving when called again.

Below, three courts share how updating their messaging strategy ensured jurors were happy, safe, and prepared to serve.

Think Like a Juror

Many courts have found success flipping the jury communication system on its head, by examining how jurors would like to be communicated with, rather than what has been customary in the past. With text messaging now the dominant form of communication for everything from doctor’s appointments to restaurant reservations, it should be no surprise that it’s becoming an expectation of jurors, too.

As courts make the switch to a modern jury management solution that provides the texting and mobile features the public prefers, courts find what’s good for jurors can boost their own efficiency as well.

Elizabeth Dumond, chief deputy court administrator for Chester County, Pennsylvania, says updating their jury communication system has turned court staff from villains, who have to turn people away when there’s a change in schedule, to heroes, who communicate quickly, and helpfully in advance of problems. In fact, Chester County court staff has eliminated nearly 100% of miscommunication with jurors.

How a Simple Text Changes Everything

Many jurors don’t check emails often and miss phone calls, especially if it’s an unknown number. Jurors in multiple areas of the country have responded well to text notifications, however, finding them more convenient and in an obvious place they won’t miss.

Since leveraging automated text notifications, Jennifer Turner, jury coordinator for Parker County, Texas, says she has seen an increase in appearance rates.

Beyond saving court staff valuable time from calling jurors, Turner says, “It helps us [court staff] because we’re not having to do as much work when they [jurors] first get here because they have already signed in, they’ve already done the questionnaire … and they’re essentially ready to go.”

In addition to sending planned communications, text messaging allows courts to be more flexible when handing cancelations and schedule or location changes. Even a last-minute change can be easily communicated via text, so jurors are notified before they walk out the door — demonstrating that the court values their time.

Safety Through Communication

Texting provides an immediacy that phone calls and emails can’t match for most of the public, making it even more useful when an emergency forces a courthouse closure or poses an active threat.

In Chester County, Pennsylvania, they’ve closed for hurricanes, flooding, and blizzards. Jury summons recommends checking the court’s website for updates, but a quick text alert can give the same information, with minimal effort from court staff — who can access the system remotely if needed — and no effort from the juror.

Santa Barbara County, California, dealt with a serious emergency in the middle of jury service when a bomb threat was called in during lunch break.

“We knew that we were going to have people returning to the jury assembly building,” Mark Hanson, senior judicial services manager for Santa Barbary County says. “We didn’t want them to come back and walk into something that was potentially dangerous.”

Santa Barbara court staff were able to access their jury management system from another court office to send out an alert to stay away from the area.

Jury duty can already put people on edge — they don’t know what to expect or how it will impact their work or family life. But by using quick, efficient messaging, court staff can help put jurors at ease while increasing compliance and taking pressure off of staff.

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