Jury Service Committee

Chaired by Lynn Marks, Esq., the Jury Service Committee’s overarching priority has been to increase diversity and public participation on juries throughout the Commonwealth. The Committee’s current initiatives include:

  • expanding the use of the statewide juror list;
  • educating judges and lawyers on best practices in jury selection;
  • improving standardized juror instructions;
  • and working directly with judicial districts to improve juror outreach and diversity.

Jury Service Pamphlet: As one means of increasing juror diversity throughout the Commonwealth, the Committee produced two types of pamphlets (attached at right) that educate limited English proficient (“LEP”) individuals about jury service and the level of English language proficiency needed to serve on a federal or a state court jury. The federal pamphlets were distributed to the three Federal District Courts in Pennsylvania for dissemination at naturalization ceremonies. The state court pamphlets have been shared with court administrators throughout the Commonwealth and with bar associations, advocacy groups, and commissions who work with immigrant communities.

Statewide Juror List: To create a more diverse juror pool that better reflects Pennsylvania’s demographics, the Committee helped draft and successfully sought passage of Act 37, which established a much more inclusive Statewide Juror List comprised of individuals identified by four state agencies: the Department of Revenue, the Department of State, PennDOT, and the Department of Human Services. The Committee continues to monitor the use of the Statewide Juror List by judicial districts and is working with the AOPC and the four agencies mentioned above to find methods of removing duplicate names from the lists produced each year for the districts. As of October 2020, two-thirds of Pennsylvania’s judicial districts are using the list. In light of statutory provisions that permit federal courts to obtain state court records, the Committee has also begun discussions with Pennsylvania’s federal courts about the possibility of establishing a similar list.

Tracking Juror Demographics: In 2013, the Committee conducted a pilot program in which Lehigh, Cumberland, Beaver, and Erie Counties agreed to work with the Committee to amend their juror questionnaire in order to capture the race, ethnicity, gender, and age of the following: (1) those summoned for jury service, (2) those who appeared in court in response to a summons, and (3) those who were selected for jury duty within their judicial districts. The goal of the program was to help judicial districts identify and address any demographic disparities found in their juries. Given the positive results of the program, the Committee recently drafted and sent a brief Juror Demographic Survey (attached at right) to all remaining PA judicial district administrators to determine whether their judicial districts are collecting racial, ethnic, gender or other juror-based demographic data and whether the use of the Statewide Juror List has impacted the diversity of their juries.

Amending PA’s Juror Exemptions/Excusals and Juror Criminal Disqualification Statutes: The Committee has been working with key legislators to re-introduce its proposed modifications to 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 4503, Pennsylvania’s juror exemptions and excusals statute that currently contributes to a lack of diversity on state court juries. In addition, the Committee is collaborating with the Governor’s Office and legislators on re-introducing a bill that would reduce the range of criminal offenses that currently disqualify former offenders from jury service for life. The current statute effectively disenfranchises many potential jurors, disproportionately African American males, from eligibility for jury service, regardless of the severity of the offense.

Guide on Jury Selection and Service: The Committee continues to distribute its guide, Best Practices for Jury Selection and Service in Pennsylvania, throughout the Commonwealth to inform judges, court administrators, and attorneys about model practices to improve their jury service and selection procedures. Executive Director Lisette McCormick referenced the guide (attached at right) along with other materials during a presentation she gave on the topic of Jury Source Lists and Perceptions of Justice: Increasing Representativeness during the 2021 PBA Minority Bar Conference on October 7-8, 2021.

Model Jury Instructions: Earlier in its history, the Committee researched and proposed model jury instructions on jury bias and juror behavior during deliberations, in response to a complaint by a Pennsylvania juror of bias and mistreatment by fellow jurors during performance of her jury duty. The proposed jury instructions were submitted to the Supreme Court Committee on Jury Instructions for consideration and use by judicial districts across the state. The Committee’s proposed General Instructions to the Jury and specific amendments to the Pennsylvania standard jury instructions are set forth at right, under Reports.

The Committee’s past initiatives include:

  • working with the Supreme Court Civil Rules Committee to draft rules to improve the voir dire process;
  • other initiatives contained within Chapters Two and Three of the Final Report of the Supreme Court Committee on Racial and Gender Bias in the Justice System.