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The American Bar Association last week released a draft of recommendations to revamp the jury system, from keeping more details about jurors private to allowing them to take notes and discuss cases with one another during trials. The recommendations were announced in a press conference in Washington by ABA President Robert J. Grey on behalf of the association’s American Jury Project, a committee that has studied jury operations across the country for the last six months. The committee said in a 25-page report that states should be urged to: Keep private the home and work addresses and phone numbers of jurors, unless a compelling reason exists to reveal such information. Allow jurors to refuse to respond to embarrassing or unnecessary questions during voir dire, with a judge’s permission. In civil trials, allow jurors to discuss a case among themselves before the trial concludes. In civil trials, allow jurors to submit written questions to the court. Give judges the option to allow them in criminal trials. In all trials, allow jurors to take notes. Provide jurors with written instructions for deliberations. Prohibit employers from firing or laying off people who serve on juries. Increase juror pay. Grey said some of the proposals, such as note-taking, are simple and should not meet with much resistance from attorneys. Other ideas, such as giving jurors summaries in the middle of trials, allowing them to ask questions and limiting voir dire, will likely be the subject of debate when the proposals are put up for ratification in February. “This is not rocket science that we are talking about, but it is stuff that bucks tradition and custom,” Grey said. If the full ABA approves the recommendations, Grey will travel around the country over six months to promote them. Each state selects and administers juries in its own way, and state legislatures and court systems would have to approve the changes before they went into effect. Patricia Lee Refo, a partner in Snell & Wilmer’s Phoenix office who chaired the jury project, said almost of all of the proposals have been put in place in one district or another, but rarely all in one place. She highlighted juror privacy and pay as two major issues. “Jurors should not have to surrender their privacy at the courthouse door,” she said. To address privacy concerns, the report recommends that judges explain to jurors how the information they provide will be used and how long it will be kept on file. Jurors should also be informed that they can answer sensitive questions privately to the court and to parties, the report says. Another proposal recommends that news media be barred from taking pictures of jurors. As for juror wages, Refo recognized that budget crunches in most states would make significant increases difficult to come by. But, she said, “It’s absolutely critical that we find a way to adequately sponsor jurors for the time they spend in service.”

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