The foundation of the Massachusetts jury system is the Master Juror List, created each year from the information supplied by the Commonwealth’s 351 cities and towns. Massachusetts is the only state in the country to have a mandatory annual municipal census, and as a result Massachusetts is widely believed to have the best, most complete, and most representative Master Juror List in the nation. In order to meet its mandate to provide a diverse and fair cross-section of prospective jurors, the Office Of Jury Commissioner depends upon the accuracy of data supplied by each of the city and town clerks.
The legal obligations of the city and town clerks are set forth in Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 234A , but we have culled them here for your convenience and as a reference. They are summarized below for your convenience.
On or before June 1st of each year, every city and town of The Commonwealth must submit a Numbered Resident File (NRF) to the Office of Jury Commissioner (OJC).
- The NRF shall be created from the Annual Listing of residents performed by each city and town in January of every year as required by (M.G.L., Chapter 51, section 4 ).
- The NRF shall contain those residents who are seventeen years of age or older as of the first day of January of the current year and who are residing in the city/town as of the first day of January of the current year.
- OJC Regulation 2
lists the specifications of the NRF, but the following is a list of the data elements required:
- Last Name
- First Name
- Middle Initial
- Mailing Address
- Zip Code
- Zip+4 Code
- Date of Birth
PLEASE NOTE: Although the Jury Commissioner may grant a short extension for the submission of the NRF, the June 1st date applies unless you are notified that an extension of the deadline has been issued.
How to Submit Your Data:
The vast majority of cities and towns choose to use the Voter Registry Information System (VRIS) of the Secretary of State's Office as their agent for the submission of their NRF.
If you are using VRIS, or any other agent, please remember that the statutory responsibility for the accuracy of the NRF submitted by each municipality rests solely with the municipality and not with the agent. Therefore, please be sure that your data is as accurate, inclusive and current as possible.
If you choose to submit your NRF directly, then it must be formatted as described in OJC Regulation 2 .
List Accuracy and Completeness:
It is extremely important that you be as diligent as you can be in gathering the data, so that the Master Juror Lists are inclusive of the Massachusetts population as a whole. Otherwise, entire groups could be excluded from the jury selection process because they were not listed, or they were listed but the addresses given for them were inaccurate. Such exclusion could have profound consequences, including impacts on criminal convictions and civil verdicts.
The Office of Jury Commissioner depends upon you to make your best efforts to locate all residents and submit the required information for our use in creating the Master Juror List. We recognize the challenge this poses, particularly in the face of budget constraints and non-responsive residents. Nevertheless, the OJC is required by law to take all necessary steps, including legal action if necessary, to ensure that all 351 Massachusetts cities and towns are in full compliance with Mass. General Laws c.51, §4 and c.234A, §10 . Please contact this Office immediately if you encounter any difficulties or foresee any problems with your town’s ability to meet its obligations.
The Massachusetts Jury System is widely regarded as the “gold standard” among all states precisely because we have access to the most complete resident information through the annual census. It is your commitment to conducting a complete and accurate census that enables Massachusetts to maintain its position as the national benchmark, and we thank you for that commitment.
Failure to Submit Complete or Timely Data:
The municipalities are required by law to submit complete and accurate NRFs to the OJC on or before June 1st of every year. The OJC, in turn, is required by law to use this data to create the Master Juror each year.
If the data is not timely submitted, or if it does not appear to be complete, the OJC will contact the clerk to resolve the deficiency. In the event that the deficiency is not resolved, the OJC will take all steps necessary, including legal action if required, to compel compliance with the law.
Lists Available for Public Inspection:
Pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 234A. Section 15 , on or before October 1 of each year, the OJC will submit to each city and town clerk a Prospective Juror List containing information on each resident of the town who may be summoned for jury duty in the following year. By law, this list is a public record that must be made available by the city or town clerk for public inspection. The OJC will submit this list to the clerk electronically. The clerk may wish to make the list available for public inspection upon request, rather than printing or otherwise posting the entire list at the town hall or on the town website, due to the personal nature of the information on the list.