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Learn about the Office of Jury Commissioner

Find out about the history of the Office of Jury Commissioner and what the office does today.
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Overview

In accordance with Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 234A, §5, the Office of Jury Commissioner (OJC) is a department within the judicial branch under the supervision and control of the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) that's responsible for summoning jurors to the jury courts in the state. Pursuant to M.G.L. c.234A, §7, the Jury Commissioner is the Executive Head of the OJC, and is appointed by the SJC. The Jury Commissioner serves under the guidance and supervision of the Jury Management Advisory Committee (JMAC). The JMAC, which is made up of 6 judges selected by the Chief Justice of the SJC, is a standing committee of the SJC and advises and assists its Chief Justice in overseeing the OJC. The Court Administrator and the Office of Court Management also provide administrative management to the OJC (M.G.L. c.211B, §9A(viii)). 

Greetings from Chief Justice Gants

Welcome, and thank you for visiting the Massachusetts Juror Service Website. The right to a trial by jury is one of the cornerstones of our participatory democracy. The Pilgrims brought the concept of the jury trial with them to Plymouth in 1620. Just over 350 years later, Massachusetts was the first state in the nation to adopt the One Day/One Trial system across the Commonwealth. Today, a summons to jury duty continues to empower our citizens with both a privilege and a responsibility. Jurors play an essential role in ensuring a fair and impartial system of justice for all the people of the Commonwealth, and we thank you for your service.

Welcome from the Jury Commissioner

Welcome! We hope you are finding useful information as you explore the official website of the Office of Jury Commissioner for the Commonwealth.

The OJC is a department of the judicial branch, which oversees the random selection of a diverse and representative group of citizens to perform jury service and assist in the administration of justice. Every week, several thousand citizens report to the dozens of jury courts across Massachusetts to serve. “Jury service” is not just sitting on a jury, however — making yourself available at the courthouse, and standing ready to assist on a civil or criminal case if needed, are also necessary aspects of jury service. Those who appear for service are disqualified for 3 years after serving just like those who sit on a jury.

The OJC does much more than issue summonses, though. We have an active outreach program and can provide you with educational materials, copies of our video, and speakers and presentations to explain the importance of our jury system and your role in it. We work with the courts constantly to improve the jury duty experience for citizens, and would welcome your comments and suggestions on our Juror Feedback Survey. We pursue all those who have failed to complete their juror service through our Delinquent Juror Prosecution Program, to ensure that all eligible citizens meet their obligation and exercise their privilege to participate in the administration of justice.

Jury service is both an obligation and a privilege, as well as a right of all citizens that is guaranteed by our Constitution. Other than military service, it is the only time your government will call on you to serve to defend our constitutional freedoms. Jury service is truly “government by the people,” in that ordinary citizens are entrusted with the responsibility for making legal decisions that are otherwise reserved to the government: who will go free and who will lose their liberty, who will pay or receive large sums of money, who will keep or lose their property. It is a tremendous responsibility, and those who are lucky enough to be impaneled on a jury almost uniformly agree that it is one of the most fascinating and empowering experiences of their lives.

I thank you for your interest in the jury system and the workings of the Office of Jury Commissioner, and thank you for your service.

Pamela J. Wood

History of the OJC

The OJC started in 1979 as a pilot program in Middlesex County, operating under a federal grant. The OJC of Middlesex County administered the One Day or One Trial system in Middlesex County only, while the other judicial districts relied on their county governments to supply jurors to their courts.

In 1980, the Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) decided the case of Commonwealth v. Bastarache382 Mass. 86 (1980), finding that the juror selection system for Franklin County excluded people between the ages of 18 and 34, who made up 36% of the population of that county. The court determined that underrepresentation of any age group should not continue, and endorsed the random selection technique for juror selection.

Shortly after, the Massachusetts legislature voted to expand the Middlesex County juror selection process into all the counties of the state under Chapter 298 of the Acts of 1982.

The jury statute was substantially revised as Chapter 234A of the Massachusetts General Laws, and the OJC for Middlesex County became the OJC for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Under the supervision of the SJC, the counties began converting to the One Day or One Trial system. By 1988, all 14 judicial districts in Massachusetts were operating under the new system, making Massachusetts the first state in the nation to adopt the One Day or One Trial system in all courts.

Additional Resources

The OJC today

In 2005, the OJC began a statewide technological upgrade that automated many of the processes of the jury system, resulting in more efficient administration of justice and greater convenience for those summoned for jury duty. The Massachusetts Juror Service Website and juror check-in by bar-code scanning are 2 examples of these improvements. 

Today, some of the functions of the OJC include:

  • Creating the 14 Master Juror Lists
  • Summoning all jurors who serve in the state courts of Massachusetts (approximately 600,000 to 800,000 summonses issued per year)
  • Scheduling the required number of jurors at each jury court in the state (approximately 400 to 2,000 per day)
  • Handling up to 1,000 inquiries per day through the Juror Helpline and the Massachusetts Juror Service Website
  • Providing information to jurors by mail, the Juror Helpline, and the Massachusetts Juror Service Website
  • Educating the public about the jury system through the Public Outreach Program
  • Providing those who have served with certificates of service and any required state compensation
  • Investigating complaints of jurors whose employers have allegedly harassed or refused to compensate them for jury duty
  • Pursuing delinquent jurors who have failed to perform or complete their jury service
  • Establishing rules and regulations concerning policies, procedures, and forms

Additional Resources

Contact

Phone

Juror helpline (toll-free in Massachusetts) (800) 843-5879 (THE-JURY)

Monday-Friday 9 am - 4:30 pm

Delinquent jurors (877) 966-7469
From outside Massachusetts (617) 338-6409

Fax

(617) 422-5869

Address

Street Address
560 Harrison Ave.,
Boston, MA 02118
Mailing Address
560 Harrison Ave., Suite 600,
Boston, MA 02118
Last updated: April 25, 2018

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