One of the most important functions of the Office of Jury Commissioner (OJC) is to create complete and accurate lists of people in Massachusetts who can be summoned to jury service.
- These lists are known as the “Master Juror Lists.”
- A separate Master Juror List is created for each judicial district every year by the OJC.
- The list is drawn from the annual resident lists that are created by each of the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts.
- Because these lists are much more inclusive than selective or unreliable lists such as voter lists or driver registration lists, it is widely believed that Massachusetts has possibly the most comprehensive and representative Master Juror List in the country. This is essential to ensuring a fair and impartial “jury of one’s peers.”
Master Juror List Creation
- By law, the 351 cities and towns of Massachusetts must submit a list of all residents seventeen years of age and older to the OJC every year.
- The OJC performs data integrity checks to help confirm the accuracy of the lists, working with the towns if necessary.
- The OJC also eliminates certain unusable entries (such as “Occupant,” incomplete addresses, known duplicate names, and the like).
- The lists are grouped by judicial district, generally along county lines.
- All of a judicial district's resident names are then combined into a large database, where they are randomly shuffled by a computer program.
- The resulting randomly shuffled list of a judicial district's residents is called the Master Juror List.
- There are fourteen judicial districts, each with its own Master Juror List.
- Around October 1st, the OJC begins summoning for each courthouse for the next calendar year, using the Master Juror List for the judicial district in which the courthouse is located.
Random Summoning of Jurors
Jurors sometimes question why they have been summoned two, three or more times, while friends or family members have not received a summons during the same time period.
Because jurors must be summoned randomly, anyone who is eligible to serve must have an equal chance of being summoned as anyone else who is on the list. The fact that you have served more recently than someone else does not affect your eligibility. Therefore, any two people who are eligible to serve have an equal chance of being randomly summoned.
Compare your chance of being summoned to flipping a coin. If you flipped a coin five times in a row and got heads every time, you might think it was unusual but you would understand that it was just random chance. The same is true of being summoned for jury duty, if you and your friend are both eligible for service. You might be summoned several times in a row before your friend was ever summoned.
However, the fact that fewer than half of the eligible jurors in most judicial districts are summoned every year makes it unlikely that you will be summoned all that often. Also, once you have gone to the courthouse and served, you are disqualified from serving for another three years.
Your Juror Records
Jurors are sometimes surprised that the OJC sends a summons to someone who is not qualified to serve.
It may seem that the OJC should know about such things as a change of address, felony conviction, military deployment, or death of a juror, and that a summons should not have been issued. However, such personal information is protected by privacy laws and is generally not shared between governmental agencies. Records are retained by the OJC for three years, but your address or name may have changed so that the system does not recognize you, or prior reasons for disqualification may no longer apply.
Therefore, you may receive a summons when you think you should not have. If this happens, please contact us online , by mail ( Trial , Grand ) (on the Juror Confirmation Form, if available), or call us from within Massachusetts at 1-800-THE-JURY (1-800-843-5879).
Some jurors ask why they have received a summons when they have previously sent us a doctor’s letter or proof of non-citizenship, or they have served within the last three years.
In broad terms, the answer is that the OJC seeks to be as inclusive as possible, so as to minimize the risk that someone will be wrongly excluded from the list of eligible jurors. The OJC relies on the prospective juror to confirm whether or not he or she is qualified to serve, rather than making assumptions about who may or may not be disqualified.
In some cases, the evidence of disqualification only applies for one year, such as proof of non-citizenship: a prospective juror might be disqualified one year, but become a citizen the next year and be eligible for service.
The same is true of citizens who are out of the district for more than a year, such as military personnel: the OJC has no way of knowing when the prospective juror has returned and is eligible to serve.
In other cases, there may be a difference in the way the prospective juror’s name or address is submitted to the OJC by the juror’s city or town. Unless the name and address are basically identical, the computer system will err on the side of caution and assume that differing names or addresses represent different jurors. Two similar names at the same address, such as John A. Doe and J.A. Doe, for example, could be the same person, or father and son, or John Doe and his wife, Jane.
Again, the prospective juror can simply notify the OJC online , by mail ( Trial , Grand ), or by phone from within Massachusetts at 1-800-THE-JURY (1-800-843-5879) if a disqualification for prior service (or other reason) applies.
Medical disqualification letters can be faxed to the OJC at 1-617-422-5869 or mailed to:
Office of Jury Commissioner
560 Harrison Avenue - Suite 600
Boston, Massachusetts 02118-2447
Prospective jurors who are unable to perform juror service due to health reasons can request a disqualification with supporting medical documentation (usually a letter from a physician or Christian Science practitioner).
The letter must state that the prospective juror is being treated for a condition that prevents him or her from performing jury duty. The letter does not have to include a diagnosis or specific details about the condition.
A physician's or practitioner’s letter need only state that the practitioner is treating the juror for a condition, such as a “respiratory condition” or a “mobility impairment,” that prevents him or her from serving as a juror.
As a guideline for the physician or practitioner, jury duty requires sitting and paying attention for about six hours per day with periodic breaks in the morning and afternoon, for three consecutive business days.
The OJC will keep the letter on file for three years, after which the prospective juror must obtain a new letter if he or she is still unable to serve.
If the prospective juror has a permanent medical condition that will prevent him or her from ever serving, a permanent medical disqualification can be requested.
The juror must submit a letter from an approved health care professional that explicitly states that:
- the patient has a permanent medical condition,
- that condition prevents the patient from serving, pursuant to the guidelines set forth above, and
- the condition is not likely to improve to the point that the patient would become capable of serving.
If you are seeking a permanent medical disqualification, please be sure to make clear to your health care provider that the above three conditions must be noted in the letter in order to obtain a permanent medical disqualification. Otherwise, you may receive a standard medical disqualification and continue to receive summonses, and you will be required to obtain a new medical letter in three years.
Guidelines for Doctors can be found here .