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Though many D.C. residents are summoned for jury duty as often as once every two years, the District’s courts still struggle to maintain an adequate jury pool. A new report from the nonprofit Council for Court Excellence details why. Only 19.5 percent of D.C. residents summoned to D.C. Superior Court or the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia actually serve. A third of those summoned don’t respond (and are rarely punished), and 30 percent of summonses are returned as undeliverable. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the report says, the problem isn’t that jury summonses are too often ignored in the city’s poorer neighborhoods. “It has much more to do with the management of government lists,” says June Kress, the council’s executive director. Indeed, as the report spells out, the Superior Court’s potential juror list has about 900,000 names — in a city with just 450,000 adult residents. But one recommendation in the report may prove controversial: It proposes allowing convicted felons to serve on juries a year after completing their sentences. Currently, the Superior Court makes ex-cons wait 10 years before becoming eligible for the honor. Superior Court Chief Judge Rufus King III calls the report “balanced” and says the court is working to implement many of its recommendations. But as for allowing ex-cons to sit on juries earlier, King says, “It isn’t something I’d go to the mat on.”
Jason McLure can be contacted at [email protected].

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