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The experience confronting jurors in Connecticut courts has undergone intensive scrutiny during recent months, and subtle but significant changes may be on the horizon. Over the past year a jury accommodation committee authorized by the Chief Court Administrator’s office has been evaluating conditions of juror accommodations at 17 court locations around the state. As part of the study, individual members of the committee, all judicial staff members, traveled to assigned court locations and spent an entire day as mock jurors. Following the requisite call to the courthouse the night before their scheduled service, the mock jurors drove to the courthouse using the exact directions provided over the phone. Upon arrival they were greeted by staff as jurors and ushered through the jury process. After spending the day at the courthouse, they spent the night in the designated jurors’ quarters. Throughout the process, each committee member took extensive notes evaluating everything in their encounter, ranging from the professionalism of the staff to the number of parking spaces and variety of vending machines available. No stone went unturned in the survey. Everything — space available in the assembly, comfort of the seating, how breaks are allotted, clarity of the instructions, comfort of sleeping quarters — was up for review. The purpose of the survey was to pinpoint ways in which jurors can be made to feel more comfortable while they are participating in the service of the court. According to jury administrator Karen Berris, who is charged with the task of compiling the survey finding, “when it comes to a juror’s comfort, even something that may seem as mundane as the selection of vending machines is important.” RECOGNIZING PARTICIPATION A main objective in improving the comfort level of jurors during their service, according to Berris, is to help make them recognize the importance of their participation. “One of the questions on the form we took to the courthouses was ‘Do you feel like a guest?’ Our objective, as we plan for the future, is to be sure that jurors are acknowledged for the critical role they play in our legal system.” A report compiled from the survey’s findings will be submitted to the Executive Director of Court Operations. It will then be evaluated by executive staff, and a determination will be made on what recommendations will be implemented. MORE CONCERN FOR JURORS Superior Court Judge Douglas S. Lavine recently asked the Connecticut Law Revision Commission to review the statutory oaths administered to jurors in civil and criminal court. In a letter addressed to the commission, Lavine indicated his concern that many jurors express bewilderment and confusion over the arcane language of the oaths and show a lack of comprehension about what they are assenting to. Lavine said the experience can be unnerving to some jurors. He said the obscure language of statutory oaths “contributes to the widespread impression that the legal system is mysterious and filled with incomprehensible legalese and arcane incantations.” As an example, Lavine quotes the voir dire oath for jurors: “You solemnly swear … that you will well and truly answer such interrogatories as shall be put to you, under the direction of the court, not immediately relating to the merits of the cause now in question …” “Archaic language is incomprehensible to the modern ear,” says Lavine. “I think it is very important that the language of the oaths be updated and stated in plain English so that jurors understand precisely what they are swearing to do.” The Law Revision Commission, at its Sept. 19 meeting, agreed to study the statutory oaths and consider recommendations to the legislature on ways to simplify and revise them.

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