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It’s not difficult to find tips online on how to get out of jury duty. Legal experts note there is a historic decline in the number of civil jury trials, both at the state and federal level. That’s the reason a luncheon panel comprised former jurors who served in the federal or state court in Southern Nevada was held in early September. The luncheon was a forum to learn from the former jurors how jury duty can be improved. The panel opened up to an audience of judges and attorneys about their experience of serving on a jury. The discussion and information gleaned will be included in a national Civil Jury Project study to solve the mystery of why jury trials are on the decline. The valuable information the panelists revealed at Las Vegas Jury Improvement Lunch can be viewed on the Civil Jury Project website https://civiljuryproject.law.nyu.edu/9-5-18-las-vegas-jury-improvement-lunch. Lunches conducted in other cities can also be viewed on the site https://civiljuryproject.law.nyu.edu.

Moderator Steve Susman, the executive director of the Civil Jury Project at New York University (NYU) School of Law, floated some unconventional suggestions for discussion as ways to improve the jury service experience. The suggestions were diverse including: the idea of no sidebars to eliminate wait time for discussion of issues out of the presence of the jury; what and when jury a can discuss issues of the case; and what questions lawyers can ask during jury selection. The question of providing one verdict form per jury versus one per each juror was raised. The moderator raised the idea that jury selection would be more efficient if jurors had more information up front and asked the panel’s input on giving complete opening statements to all potential jurors.

Research on potential jurors was also a topic of discussion. The moderator asked,Do you think the selection process disclosed biases?” Susman raised ethical concerns and asked the jurors if they feel it is an invasion of privacy for attorneys to gather information about potential jurors on social media. Former juror Tabitha Gerken responded, “It’s inappropriate, but it’s expected.” When pressed why, she said, ”you’re asking the jurors who are taking time out of their life; they can’t talk to their spouses; they can’t talk to their friends; you’re asking them to be impartial, but then there’s other people, who they don’t know, who they’ve never met, who get to judge them from the outside by what they have on social media or on the Assessor’s page, or whatever. I don’t think it’s appropriate, but I expect it anyway.”

Nevada Eighth Judicial District Court Judge Michael Villani, who had been selected to serve as a juror in a trial, noted that the jurors he served with questioned all the downtime. He shared that the experience made him more aware when he is presiding over trials. He said, “I tell jurors that while you’re waiting, we are working. I give them that little phrase so they know we are not just back there chit-chatting, that there is something important going on; that’s why there is a delay.”

Nevada Eighth Judicial District Court Judge Timothy Williams said that he uses jury questionnaires in about 50 percent of his cases and added that one of the issues that a District Court Jury Commission is looking at to save time is online jury questionnaires. He said, “We’re trying to devise a way where lawyers can actually submit their questionnaires in case specific and individual to the jury commissioner and have those answered.”

The moderator asked if it would be helpful to have more instruction from judges on deliberation. Federal District Court Judge Richard Boulware said that he would be open to giving jurors structure. He said, “I’ve heard from jurors that no one really tells them how to deliberate.”

A former juror at the session shared that, when he served on a jury, it wasn’t clear to the jurors what charges the witnesses were testifying on.

The difference between evidence driven deliberation and verdict driven deliberation was also discussed. According to Susman, empirical research shows jurors more satisfied when do evidence based deliberation and it’s harder to change minds once someone has already voted.

The use of straw polls was discussed. The suggestion was made to conduct straw polls with anonymous notes that include a not sure option. The idea is to reduce the potential for social pressure to influence  juror decisions.

When it comes to jury selection, Susman shared that 35 jury trial consultants told the Jury Project that questions: where do you get your news, and which person do you admire most and why, are more important than almost any other question to ask potential jurors.” Susman questioned the appropriateness of such questions.

All the former jurors agreed they would be willing to serve on a jury again and offered suggestions to improve the experience. Moderator Steve Susman indicated that common themes have emerged nationally about the jury process including: it was very repetitive; the trial lasted longer that it needed to because the lawyers just repeat themselves; there’s a lot of down time and wasted time before you even get selected.

The panel in Las Vegas was done in cooperation with the courts and the Clark County Bar Association.  Information learned will be part of New York University’s Civil Jury Project, the only academic center in the country dedicated exclusively to studying civil jury trials. The Civil Jury Project goal is to find out why jury trials are vanishing, whether this is a bad thing, and, if so, what can be done to prevent their decline. The juror luncheon in Las Vegas was the 18th held across the nation for a study that includes more than 260 state and federal judges, legal professionals and academics.

The participation of the former jurors and judges was greatly appreciated, including those jurors who were in the audience. Their input was invaluable and will help to ensure the Civil Jury Project reflects the views of our community.

To see the discussion visit the Civil Jury Project website:

https://civiljuryproject.law.nyu.edu/9-5-18-las-vegas-jury-improvement-lunch/

https://civiljuryproject.law.nyu.edu/

Tina Marie Pescatori reveals what she experienced when she served on a jury

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0YQx8IZmSc&t=5s

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Former jurors, who have recently served in the Nevada federal or state court, are sought for a panel on Sept. 5, from noon to 1:30 p.m., at the Lloyd D. George U.S. Courthouse, Jury Assembly Room, to give input on how to improve the jury system. The participants will be provided lunch compliments of the New York University’s Civil Jury Project and the Clark County Bar Association.

Former jurors who have recently served in the Nevada federal or state court and would like to participate in the panel can RSVP to kv20@nyu.edu or (212) 729-2016 to attend. Lunch will be provided. Transportation and parking expenses will be reimbursed.

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Former jurors, who have recently served in the Nevada federal or state court, are sought for a panel on Sept. 5, from noon to 1:30 p.m., at the Lloyd D. George U.S. Courthouse, Jury Assembly Room, to give input on how to improve the jury system. The participants will be provided lunch compliments of the New York University’s Civil Jury Project and the Clark County Bar Association.

Legal experts note there is a historic decline in the number of civil jury trials, both at the state and federal level. The luncheon is a forum to learn from the former jurors how jury duty can be improved based upon their first hand observations. The former jurors, along with judges, will have the opportunity to share experiences and insight gained, and to provide input on proposals to make jury trials more efficient. Steve Susman the Executive Director of the Civil Jury Project at NYU School of Law will present information on national trends uncovered by The Civil Jury Project. Attorneys are invited to observe the session for Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit through the Clark County Bar Association.

The Civil Jury Project is the only academic center in the country dedicated exclusively to studying civil jury trials. Their goal is to find out why jury trials are vanishing, whether this is a bad thing, and, if so, what can be done to avoid their extinction. The juror luncheon is part of the national study that includes more than 260 state and federal judges from around the country, legal professionals and academics.

Eighth Judicial District Court Judge Timothy Williams, who has been involved in The Civil Jury Project, called juries “the great regulator.” “Juries are important for one basic reason, under our United States Constitution there are guarantees of jury trials in both civil and criminal matters. As a result, the process cannot function unless our citizens are willing to participate,” said Judge Williams. “There is a two-prong reason for them to participate: number one, it’s a duty to do so as citizens of this country; and, it’s a great service provided to the community.”

Judge Williams has been instrumental in conducting this jury input project and said, “Participation of jurors that have served is vital. I’m hoping they can share their stories and experiences and give the courts, lawyers and justice system insight on how we can improve their service and their experience when they serve on a jury.” He acknowledged that when citizens receive a summons they generally don’t want to serve; but, once they serve, they realize that their vote and their service to the community really matter.

Last year, former Eighth Judicial District Chief Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez appointed a Jury Services Committee chaired by Judge Williams and Judge Valerie Adair, and comprised of members of the bar, legislators, the community and the jury commissioner. The committee has made progress in their examination of the jury process from summons through discharge and in their exploration of the viability of further operational and technological improvements that could enhance jury service processes.

Former jurors who have recently served in the Nevada federal or state court and would like to participate in the panel can RSVP to kv20@nyu.edu or (212) 729-2016 to attend. Lunch will be provided. Transportation and parking expenses will be reimbursed.

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Those who responded to the call for jury duty were greeted and thanked for their response by Nevada Supreme Court Justice Michael Douglas, Chief Judge David Barker and Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez. Those in attendance were offered fresh coffee and cookies compliments of the Nevada Eighth Judicial District Court judges.  They also got a sneak-peek at two new jury service videos that are being release today. We’ve heard every jury excuse in the book/top three most creative jury excuses (with Justice Mark Gibbons and Judge David Barker) and add jury service to your bucket list videos can be view on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCinfEGC2Ix41UfnsT3P1b1A\

Jury services is widely recognized as essential pillar of our justice system and those who serve their civic duty are highly regarded and appreciated by the court. District Court has upgraded and streamlined Jury Services to improve efficiency and save time for all involved in the jury selection process, most notably attorneys and reporting jurors. A series of upgrades initiated by past Chief Judge Jennifer Togliatti began several years ago and is ongoing. Some of the most recent improvements include the ability for summoned jurors to access jury qualification questionnaires in a variety of ways: kiosks, improved wi-fi for personal electronic devices, and court-provided tablets. The Jury Services webpage (http://www.clarkcountycourts.us/ejdc/juror-information/index.html#Frequently Asked Questions) has been upgraded to help jurors navigate through the reporting process by, among other things, offering jury qualification questionnaires online to improve pre-qualification rates. Potential jurors can complete their qualification questionnaires and upload/attach documentation right onto their record. Potential jurors can also update their addresses and find information on what to expect, FAQs, directions to courthouse/parking, and the orientation video. Potential jurors/jurors are also able to select their preferred method of contact including: email, text, phone, or mail. Reminder calls can be made to jurors 10 days in advance and the night prior to reporting.

Other upgrades include two touch–screen kiosks for expedited check-in. Kiosks offer the capability to complete qualification questionnaires in the Jury Services room and the ability to print attendance letters and checks. Court plans include the addition of 10 kiosks with bar code scanning capability. Jurors are no longer paid with a voucher system. Instead, checks are now issued immediately upon completion of service and are available through various ways; checks can be picked-up by the jurors upon notification by departments, or the departments can collect the checks and hand them out in the courtroom. Jurors can also request a link to an exit survey to be e-mailed to them for online completion through the eJuror web-page. The surveys are intended to gather better feedback and input on opportunities for improvement.

 

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The American justice system hinges on the jury system. The Constitution guarantees: “the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury.” That’s why jury service is so important and that’s why the Eighth Judicial District Court and Nevada Supreme Court are surprising potential jurors with a jury appreciation day on September 13 at 8 a.m. in the Jury Services Lounge of the Regional Justice Center at 200 Lewis Ave. Those responding to the call for jury duty will be surprised with fresh coffee and pastries compliments of the District Court judges. Jury services employees will reveal the top 10 misconceptions about jury service and offer the important truth.

Jury services is widely recognized as essential pillar of our justice system and those who serve their civic duty are highly regarded and appreciated by the court. District Court has upgraded and streamlined Jury Services to improve efficiency and save time for all involved in the jury selection process, most notably attorneys and reporting jurors. “The American Justice system cannot work without jurors. I encourage anyone who receives a jury summons to respond and play their important role in our justice system.” said District Court Chief Judge David Barker. “Most who serve on juries find it to be rewarding, and enlightening. As a judge, I realize how essential jurors are and I deeply value and commend those who take their responsibility to serve on a jury seriously.”

A series of upgrades initiated by past Chief Judge Jennifer Togliatti began several years ago and is ongoing. Some of the most recent improvements include the ability for summoned jurors to access jury qualification questionnaires in a variety of ways: kiosks, improved wi-fi for personal electronic devices, and court-provided tablets. The Jury Services webpage (http://www.clarkcountycourts.us/ejdc/juror-information/index.html#Frequently Asked Questions) has been upgraded to help jurors navigate through the reporting process by, among other things, offering jury qualification questionnaires online to improve pre-qualification rates. Potential jurors can complete their qualification questionnaires and upload/attach documentation right onto their record. Potential jurors can also update their addresses and find information on what to expect, FAQs, directions to courthouse/parking, and the orientation video. Potential jurors/jurors are also able to select their preferred method of contact including: email, text, phone, or mail. Reminder calls can be made to jurors 10 days in advance and the night prior to reporting.

“Jury service is vital for our justice system,” said Nevada Supreme Court Justice Mark Gibbons. “Those who receive a jury summons should be sure to respond. It’s an honor to serve this civic duty and be part of what makes this county exceptional. I served on a jury and it was a great experience,”

Other upgrades include two touch–screen kiosks for expedited check-in. Kiosks offer the capability to complete qualification questionnaires in the Jury Services room and the ability to print attendance letters and checks. Court plans include the addition of 10 kiosks with bar code scanning capability. Jurors are no longer paid with a voucher system. Instead, checks are now issued immediately upon completion of service and are available through various ways; checks can be picked-up by the jurors upon notification by departments, or the departments can collect the checks and hand them out in the courtroom. Jurors can also request a link to an exit survey to be e-mailed to them for online completion through the eJuror web-page. The surveys are intended to gather better feedback and input on opportunities for improvement.

 

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As a court employee, I often get the question, “how do I get out of jury duty?” Those who really have a hardship can get out of serving. But those who just don’t feel like serving could be missing out on an experience that is not only interesting, but might help them navigate the law in their own lives. We might be better off using reverse psychology and telling people that only a very special, select group of people get to serve; then, everyone would want to serve. Most judges have a story about a potential juror who tried to get out of serving and then ended up really liking the experience.

At District Court, we get tours from judges and court employees from around the world including: China, Russia and the Ukraine. They don’t use juries; but, they are definitely interested in the American system of jury trials. Our justice system is respected and viewed as a model worldwide. Jury trials are one of the many rights guaranteed by the Constitution that make the United States exceptional.

Bethany Barnes with the Las Vegas Sun interviewed judges and got a sample of the excuses people use to skate out on jury duty http://lasvegassun.com/news/2014/feb/28/dog-ate-my-summons-and-other-unique-excuses-get-ou/.

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