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 the following:

Jury Service Pamphlet: As one means of increasing juror diversity throughout the Commonwealth, the Committee produced two 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 continue 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.

Tracking Juror Demographics: As a part of its efforts to increase jury diversity, on January 27, 2022, the Committee sent a letter and a one-page graphic summary (both attached at right) containing the results of its survey on PA juror demographics to all Pennsylvania Judicial Court Administrators. The survey was designed to determine the extent to which judicial districts use the Statewide Juror List to summons jurors; whether judicial districts collect racial, ethnic or other juror-based demographic data; and whether use of the Statewide Juror List has resulted in an increase in diversity on juries in their districts. 62% of the districts responded, indicating that while most of them are using the Statewide Juror List to summon jurors, the majority are not collecting or analyzing juror demographic data.  Among those that do collect data, it is limited to the initial stage of the jury selection process – when summonses are sent to prospective jurors. The next steps in this initiative are for the Committee to work with the AOPC and the judicial districts who do not collect the demographics to develop a system to help them do so, and to assist the districts who do collect the demographics to analyze them and to expand the scope of collection of the data to the other two stages of the jury selection process, including the demographics of those who appear in court in response to a summons and those who are selected to sit on a jury.

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. The Committee is also collaborating with the Governor’s Office and legislators on supporting 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 (attached at right) were submitted to the Supreme Court Committee on Jury Instructions for consideration and use by judicial districts across the state.