From the early days of our nation to present day, Massachusetts has led the country in promoting the jury system for everyone's benefit. If you receive a summons for jury duty, you can serve with pride knowing the important role you're playing in preserving our participatory democracy.
While jury service is both a privilege of citizenship and an obligation, the Office of Jury Commissioner (OJC) makes every effort to make jury service as convenient as possible.
One Day or One Trial system
Massachusetts was the first state in the nation to adopt the One Day or One Trial system in all of its jury courts. The One Day or One Trial system means that all qualified citizens are eligible to perform jury service for either 1 day or the duration of 1 trial, if they're impaneled on a case. No one is exempt from jury duty — police officers, students, doctors, teachers, homemakers, government officials, and even judges are eligible for jury service. This approach ensures that Massachusetts jury pools are as diverse and representative as possible.
The juror orientation video is shown to all prospective jurors on their first day of juror service. It includes a welcome from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court, a brief history of trial by jury in the Commonwealth, an outline of the trial process, and provides an overview of what people can expect from their juror service.
How are jurors selected for service?
Prospective jurors are selected at random from the resident lists supplied to the OJC every year by each of the 351 cities and towns in Massachusetts. All of a judicial district's resident names are combined into a large database, where they're randomly shuffled by a computer program. Random selection means that if you're eligible to serve, you have the same chance of being summoned as anyone else who is on the jury list with you, even if you've already served before. This is why some people may be summoned several times before their spouses, neighbors, or friends ever receive a summons.
The resulting random list of a judicial district's residents is called the Master Juror List. There are 14 judicial districts, each with its own Master Juror List. Around October 1, the OJC begins summoning for each courthouse for the next calendar year, using the Master Juror List for the judicial district where the courthouse is located.
When and where do jurors serve?
Jurors are randomly assigned to courthouses within their judicial districts, which is usually the county. The goal is to ensure that the jury pool in each court has a mix of people from all over the district, not just those who live closest to the courthouse. If this is a hardship, you can request a transfer to a more convenient location if necessary. You can also postpone your jury service for up to a year from your original date if you want.
After completing your service at the courthouse, you don't have to serve again for at least 3 years. However, if your service was canceled, you're eligible to be called again the next year.
The history of the jury system
Massachusetts has a long and proud history of establishing and sustaining the jury system in the Commonwealth and the nation. In 1620, trial by jury was brought to the New World by the Pilgrims, who landed on the shores of what became first the Plymouth Colony, later the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and ultimately the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
In 1860, Massachusetts became the first state in the nation to bestow the right and obligation of jury service on African-American citizens, in 1860. In modern times, almost 370 years after the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts was once again at the forefront as it became the first state in the nation to adopt the One Day or One Trial system. One Day or One Trial is now the standard throughout the nation.