Introduction from the Chair
"The American system of trial by jury is unique. No other nation relies so heavily on ordinary citizens to make its most important decisions about law, business practice, and personal liberty-even death. Ideally, Americans take their participation seriously lest they someday stand before their peers seeking justice."
Stephen J. Adler
Courts in Washington State report that it has become more and more difficult to find prospective jurors. Citizens appear to be less willing to give their time to perform the crucial civic duty of serving on a jury. Like other states before us, we decided to look for ways to encourage more participation from our citizenry.
The Board of Judicial Administration resolved that a committee be formed to "conduct a broad inquiry into the jury system and examine issues including ... juror responsiveness, citizen satisfaction from jury service, adequacy of juror reimbursement, and improving juror participation in trials." Members were to include trial court judges; trial court administrators; county clerks; jury managers; attorneys; citizens who have served as jurors; legislators; representatives of labor unions and businesses; state, county, and municipal officials; media representatives; educators; and experts in jury management.
After a variety of organizations and associations were asked to nominate representatives, the Washington State Jury Commission was formed and met for the first time on June 18, 1999. We were fortunate to have members with a wealth of experience, enthusiasm, and diverse opinions. We began our task armed with excellent advice and direction from two leading national jury experts, Mr. Tom Munsterman and Judge Michael Dann, the reports of various jury commissions, and judicial and juror surveys recently conducted by Washington State University.
The results of our efforts are contained in this report. The focus of these recommendations is to improve the jury process while maintaining access to justice and a fair trial within realistic fiscal and administrative constraints.
The Commission has given the highest priority to increasing juror fees, although all of its recommendations are important steps towards improving jury service. Increased fees will not only address the current inequity in juror compensation, but will also contribute to more economically and ethnically diverse juries by enabling a broader segment of the population to serve.
I thank the Commission members and staff for their dedication to the improvement of jury service for the citizens of our state.
Daniel J. Berschauer, Chair
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