Utah’s federal court now using email to notify prospective jurors
By brooke adams
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Jun 04 2012 07:15PM
A growing number of Utahns called to jury duty in federal court are now getting the news via their inboxes rather than mailboxes.
The court in April began using the Internet to notify qualified jurors who provide an email address that they have been summoned to duty, an innovation that saves time and money and provides another example of how technology is reshaping the legal system.
Instead of mailing 60 or so summonses per trial each week, jury administrator Kristine Porter now sends about two-thirds of those notices by email. With an average of three to four trials weekly, that’s saving a lot of postage. But there are other benefits, too.
Prospective jurors get summonses faster, which gives them more time to plan for the disruption to their daily lives, and also allows them to respond quicker when they have scheduling conflicts; those with smartphones also are usually able to check their email wherever they are — including when they are out of state or on vacation.
There has also been less confusion about what to do, cutting down on those who show up at Frank E. Moss U.S. Courthouse in Salt Lake City even when a trial has been canceled.
"The success rate has been great," Porter said, though a few reported that the email landed in their junk files and several people have requested to continue receiving summonses by mail.
The U.S. District Court for Utah mails about 3,750 qualification questionnaires to prospective jurors throughout Utah every three months; the names are culled from voter registration rolls.
About two years ago, the court joined the e-Juror program, which allows prospective jurors to fill out background questionnaires online.
Information collected includes an email address — which Porter decided in April to put to use.
Porter also is able to provide a link to an electronic version of the jury service pamphlet, which previously was mailed along with the summons.
"The majority love it," she said of jurors. "It’s made it a lot more efficient."
There are only a few acceptable reasons for being excused from jury service, including age (70 years or older); poor health; and being a full-time caregiver for a child under 10. Jurors are paid $40 a day, plus mileage; those who must travel far also receive a per diem to help cover lodging and food.
Last year, the federal court held 39 jury trials — among them, trials for kidnapper and rapist Brian David Mitchell, environmental activist Tim DeChristopher and physician Dewey MacKay, who was convicted of illegally prescribing narcotic painkillers.