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Examination of Juror Attitudes and Failure to Appear Patterns in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri: An Effort to Determine Actionable Remedial Alternatives

NCJ Number
Teresa L. Steelman
Date Published
May 2001
59 pages
This study examined Missouri juror’s failure to appear and recommends changes to decrease the court’s failure to appear rate.
Although the right to a jury trial is guaranteed by the sixth and seventh Amendments to the United States Constitution, citizens routinely fail to appear in court to perform jury service despite a lawful court order mandating them to appear. The Circuit Court of Jackson County, Missouri conducted a study to assess the court’s current failure to appear status in an effort to reduce the failure to appear rate. The three-pronged study began with an analysis of the court’s jury computer software to ascertain the current failure to appear rate. Second, the effect of second notices on non-responding jurors was probed through the use of personal interviews with jurors who reported to court only after the second notice was sent. Third, a juror questionnaire was distributed to jurors reporting to the Kansas City courthouse in order to provide insight about citizen’s opinions concerning jury duty and attitudes about jurors who did not appear. Results of the three-pronged analysis indicated that jurors in Jackson County felt they were underpaid and that the juror process was not efficient. Among other juror complaints were a lack of parking and inadequate facilities. Forty-two percent of jurors believed that non-responding jurors should be sanctioned. Concerning the current failure to appear rate, each week 14 percent of jurors who receive a summons do not respond. Approximately half of these individuals who receive a second notice are located and about half of these individuals eventually report to court. Those not responding to the second notice usually claim the first notice was never received. The implications of the study are that first, the current court effort to reduce juror’s failure to appear are effective; second, the court appears to have a problem with undeliverable summons; and third, citizens may be more amenable to “community friendly” efforts to reduce juror no-show rates, such as educational awareness of the nature and importance of jury duty. Appendices