Back to the Introduction Administration of the Massachusetts Jury System
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE MASSACHUSETTS JURY SYSTEM
The Massachusetts One Day/One Trial jury system removes the numerous exemptions from juror service. Homemakers, lawyers, public safety officials, teachers, government officials and judges are now required to serve. Performance of juror service is required of any citizen who is a resident or an inhabitant for six months or more during the year in the judicial district in which summonsed. This includes: students from other states who are attending college here (inhabitants), and students who reside within Massachusetts, but attend school elsewhere (residents).
Prospective jurors are selected at random from the residents lists supplied to the Office of Jury Commissioner (OJC) each year by each of the 351 cities and towns within Massachusetts. In processing, the lists are sorted by judicial district (generally county). A separate master juror list is compiled every year for each of the fourteen judicial districts, and from it residents are summonsed. Whether jurors are qualified to serve is unknown until they respond to the summons. Those who seek disqualification from performing jury service must notify the OJC in their response to the summons and where required provide requested supporting evidence of their claim, i.e.: a letter from a physician.
Each qualified prospective juror is entitled to one postponement of up to one year from the date originally scheduled. This postponement allows a prospective juror to choose a more convenient date to serve if the assigned date is not suitable. Also, each prospective juror may request a transfer of courthouse location within the same judicial district, but only if that person encounters a substantial hardship in reporting to the originally scheduled location. (Not only is one randomly selected for receipt of a summons, one is also randomly assigned to serve at a courthouse which holds jury trials within the judicial district.) In several judicial districts there is only one jury courthouse location, and therefore transfer is not possible. Both the postponement and the courthouse location transfer can be requested by completing the summons reply form called the Juror Confirmation Form, (a self-addressed postage pre-paid postcard, which is enclosed in the summons package), and mailing it.
The elimination of class exemptions provides litigants with jury pools which are comprised of people more representative of the community from which they were drawn. The former juror selection system exempted from service several classes of people. These exemptions were found to embody a large percentage of society's socio-economic mainstream, and in so limiting the array of prospective jurors, it was thought that the constitutional rights of citizens to be judged by a jury of their peers had been fundamentally eroded. By eliminating exemptions, the opportunity for a broader base of juror selection has become available. In order to make juror service more practical for all, including those who had been previously exempted, the term of service was reduced from one month to one day or the length of one trial. (The average length of a trial is less than three days.) Furthermore, the statute provides that if it is anticipated that a trial will last more than three days, the judge, during the impanelment process, must so inform the prospective jurors. Jurors may then request to be excused from participating in that particular trial if the extended length of trial creates a hardship.
Because of the shortened term of juror service, more residents must be summonsed in order to ensure a sufficient number of prospective jurors for use at each participating courthouse every day. Consequently, a source list much larger than that previously used must be available. Elimination of class exemptions contributes to achieving this end.
Another concern that has been addressed by the One Day/One Trial system is that of the employer who, when the term of service was one month, lost the availability of employees for the duration of that term. In many instances business operations were severely hindered. Consequently, the legislative action to bring about the One Day/One Trial system was endorsed by the Associated Industries of Massachusetts and similar business organizations throughout the Commonwealth as a fair way of dealing with loss of employee time due to juror service.
The operation of the One Day/One Trial juror selection system has resulted in a dramatic savings in juror compensation fees paid by the Commonwealth. Under the former month long system, jurors were paid $14.00 per day and .07 cents per mile of travel. Now, jurors generally receive nothing from the Commonwealth for the first three days of service. Instead, their employers must pay regular wages to the juror/employee for that period of juror service. On the fourth day and thereafter, the Commonwealth will pay $50.00 per day of service to each juror, employed or unemployed, (no mileage), and the employer has no further financial obligation. Statistics show that approximately 95% of all jurors will complete their service in less than three days.
For the first three days, unemployed jurors (i.e.: homemakers, students, retired persons, etc.) do not receive compensation from the Commonwealth for their service. They are entitled, however, to be reimbursed for actual out-of-pocket expenses they would not ordinarily incur such as mileage, public transportation fees and child care expenses when necessary, at a rate not to exceed $50.00 per day of service. Self-employed jurors are required to compensate themselves for every day up to the third day, unless doing so would work a hardship upon them. In that case, they may raise that hardship with a judge when they report for service. As stated above, there are no exemptions, however, judges at the courthouse are empowered to deal with any hardships which may arise for any reason in the interests of making juror service as convenient as possible.
Approximately one week after the jurors have served, the OJC mails to each a certificate of attendance. The certificate contains a report of the dates of attendance and reflects any compensation paid by the Commonwealth to the juror for the prior week. The certificate is a two-part form, one copy for the juror's files, the other for the juror's employer. It cites the sections of the statute that pertain to the employer's duty with regard to compensation for the first three days of juror service, and the penalties assessed upon those employers who fail to comply.
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Courthouse Information About the Massachusetts Jury System The Source List
Summonsing to Service Delinquent Juror Prosecution Program Public Outreach Program
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