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State Courts Seek More Minorities on Juries

Joyce Russell/IPR
Attendees at the Iowa Summit on Justice and Disparities

More Iowans may end up available to serve on juries through a project underway at the Iowa Judicial Branch aimed at making jury pools more inclusive.  

The Committee on Jury Selection wants to ensure that African-Americans and other minorities are fairly represented.   

State court administrator Todd Nuccio says to broaden the jury pool, they hope to tap lists of Iowans registered with the Department of Revenue, in addition to the current lists from voting rolls or driver’s licenses.

Nuccio says that won’t necessarily increase the number of names they have access to.  

"Hopefully it will make a difference." -State Court Administrator Todd Nuccio

“But we know that the accuracy of the addresses are better from the Department of Revenue than they might be for the voter or driver lists,” Nuccio said.   “People are more likely to update their address from the Department of Revenue to get access to checks and other things than they are to update their addresses when it comes to those other source lists.”

Officials say the legislature may have to approve using the tax-collection agency’s information to contact potential jurors.

The judicial branch is also updating the jury summons that potential jurors receive in the mail to make it more user-friendly.   Starting December 3rd, the summons will arrive on a postcard with a website to fill out the required information as well as a number to call.

He says the postcard summons has been successful in other states.

Credit Joyce Russell/IPR
State Court Administrator Todd Nuccio

“The responsiveness to the summons has improved,” Nuccio said. 

Also, the judicial branch will send out text messages to alert potential jurors to an upcoming day in court.

“We’re doing a lot of different things with regard to juries and hopefully it will make a difference,” Nuccio said.

Nuccio spoke on a panel at this week’s Iowa Summit on Justice and Disparities.   The annual meeting is held to address the disproportionate presence of African-Americans in Iowa’s prison system compared to the population as a whole.