Communications Office:
David Bookstaver, Director
Mai Yee, Assistant Director
(212) 428-2500

Date: June 17, 2004

Seal of the Unified Court System
www.nycourts.gov
Court System Launches Second Phase of Jury Reform in New York:
Focus on Lessening Juror Downtime and
Improving the Juror Experience

NEW YORK - Chief Judge Judith S. Kaye launched the second phase of jury reform in New York today, announcing a series of operational changes aimed at more effectively utilizing juror time. The new program follows a study that reveals 82 percent of New Yorkers called for jury service are never selected to serve on a trial and is based upon recommendations contained in the interim report of The Commission on the Jury, a task force empaneled last year by the Chief Judge. One of the major improvements to be enacted will be an increase in time off between successive calls to jury service: up to six years from four, with eight years off for persons who serve more than ten days.

“After over a decade of jury reform in New York, we have achieved some very significant gains: shorter and less frequent terms of service, the abolishment of automatic exemptions to foster a more diverse jury pool and an increase in juror pay,” said Chief Judge Kaye. “But now is not the time to sit back and recount our accomplishments. We must push forward to the next phase of jury reform in New York State, addressing the remaining weaknesses in our system. I thank Mark Zauderer, Chair of The Commission on the Jury, and every one of his co-members for providing such a comprehensive plan for the court system to implement. The specific reforms proposed by the Commission will surely make a positive difference in the experience of every juror serving in this state.”

Among the Commission’s proposals to help reduce juror downtime and enhance the experience of service that the court system will begin to institute are the following:

∙ Increase the length of time between successive calls to jury service, including additional time off for persons who serve on longer trials
∙ Implement a stand-by call-in system for jurors who agree to be available within 2 hours to be contacted via beeper or cell phone
∙ Sanction lawyers who have multiple unexcused latenesses to help ensure that cases are heard on schedule
∙ Require that mandatory settlement conferences take place before parties are permitted to pick a jury, in order to prevent jurors from being used as bargaining tools in negotiations
∙ Develop new guidelines to help jury commissioners and judges better estimate the number of jurors to call
∙ Require that a judicial officer be present while all civil juries are being selected to resolve disputes, oversee the questioning of jurors by attorneys and ensure the appropriate treatment of jurors during voir dire
∙ Train judicial officers on maintaining efficient and dignified voir dire proceedings
∙ Expand use of juror questionnaires to facilitate more efficient oral questioning during voir dire
∙ Offer free Internet access for jurors in every facility where possible, for use during waiting periods
∙ Work to provide parking and public transportation passes for jurors

Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan Lippman said, “Given the overwhelming success of the court system’s jury reform efforts to date in New York, we are confident that this new program will meet with similar favorable results. We are committed to implementing the recommendations of The Commission on the Jury, which are targeted toward enhancing the quality of the juror experience, better utilization of juror time, and lessening the inevitable periods of waiting. The reforms are common-sense operational measures that can be implemented administratively and instituted immediately. I thank Mark Zauderer and all the commission members for giving us the roadmap to navigate through this next critical phase in New York’s jury reform program.”

During the last year, the Commission held seven public hearings throughout state, gathering testimony from over 120 witnesses about the jury experience in New York, before formulating the recommendations in its report. Commission Chair Mark C. Zauderer, of Piper Rudnick, LLP, stated, “It is a privilege to participate and assist in Chief Judge Kaye’s ongoing project of jury reform in New York State. I hope that our efforts will serve as a foundation for the Judiciary’s admirable goal of improving and refining this most important institution—the jury system—and we will continue to work diligently to help the court system further this goal.”

The interim report of The Commission on the Jury is available online at www.nycourts.gov/press.

 

 
Web page updated: August 16, 2006