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Jury Composition Pilot Program underway

April 19, 2017

The Illinois Supreme Court has agreed to implement the Jury Composition Pilot Program in the counties of Peoria, Rock Island, St. Clair, Sangamon, and Winnebago. The pilot program, which will be implemented with the assistance of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Court, is designed to test a new geographical method of creating jury master lists.

"It's been a long regret of mine that juries are facially non-representative," Chief Judge Walter Braud of the 14th Judicial Circuit said. "Time and again people of color, primarily, feel victimized by not seeing themselves in the seated jury or the jury pool at large. There have been efforts in the past, but this is the first program that is so promising and simplistic that if it works we are going to say, 'Why didn't we do this 15 years ago?' "

The pilot program began on April 1, 2017, with a six month data collection "baseline" period where jurors will be summoned pursuant to existing laws and local summonsing practices.  When jurors arrive for jury duty during the first six months, they will be asked to complete a confidential survey which requests demographic information. During the subsequent six month "implementation" period, a local sub-master jury list developed by the AOIC will be utilized to summon jurors. This sub-master jury list will be developed geographically by zip code where the population of each zip code within the county shall be proportionately represented in the sub-master jury list as those zip code populations are proportionately represented in the most recent decennial U.S. census statistics.  Potential jurors will be randomly selected from this sub-master list for jury duty.  Pilot counties will also mail a juror qualification form/summons to a new prospective juror having an address within the same zip code to which any undeliverable or non-responding juror qualification form/summons had been sent.  During the implementation period, jurors will again be asked to complete confidential surveys requesting demographic information.

The pilot program is inspired from the findings of the Conference of Chief Circuit Judges' Jury Representation Committee formed in 2014 and chaired by Judge Stephen Kouri.  As a result of the Committee's findings and recommendations, the Conference of Chief Circuit Judges, submitted a proposal to the Supreme Court which included a recommendation to test a new system for jury selection through a pilot program.

Judge Kouri, of the 10th Judicial Circuit, saw there was a need to try something new.

"I had a case that revealed a disconnect between certain segments of our community and the judicial system – they don't feel a part of it. We have to do something to bridge that gap. One of those things is to get proper representation on juries," Judge Kouri said. "One of the things that was important was determining where there are structural flaws in the system. At the tail end, some of the summonses don't get where they need to go. There were a handful of jurisdictions outside of Illinois using the zip codes to handle the undeliverables. So we copied what they are doing with one exception – we will also use zip codes at the beginning of the process to improve the master list."

At the conclusion of the pilot program, the AOIC will compare the jury pool demographic information from the initial six month "baseline" period and the six month "implementation" period to the U.S. census demographic statistics for the pilot sites.  The Administrative Director will report the results to the Court.

"It should work, it's designed to work," Judge Kouri said. "I appreciate that the Chief Judges got behind it and I appreciate that the Supreme Court has allowed us to proceed with it."

Read the full order, M.R. 28676 at http://illinoiscourts.gov/SupremeCourt/Announce/2017/032917_2.pdf