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The Interbranch Commission implements recommendations from the Report of The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Committee on Racial, and Gender Bias in The Justice System. View the Report

Jury Service Committee

Chaired by Lynn Marks, Esq., the Jury Service Committee's overarching priority has been to increase diversity and public participation on juries throughout the Commonwealth. The Committee’s current initiatives include:

  • expanding the use of the statewide juror list;
  • educating judges and lawyers on best practices in jury selection;
  • improving standardized juror instructions;
  • and working directly with judicial districts to improve juror outreach and diversity.

Jury Service Pamphlet: As one means of increasing juror diversity throughout the Commonwealth, the Committee worked with the AOPC, the Commission’s Interpreter Services Committee, and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania to produce a pamphlet (attached at right) that educates limited English proficient (“LEP”) individuals about jury service and the level of English language proficiency needed to serve on a federal jury. Thus far, 2,000 copies of this pamphlet have been distributed to the Western District courts for dissemination at naturalization ceremonies. The Eastern and Middle Federal Districts also plan to participate in this initiative. The Commission has also finalized a revised version of the juror pamphlet for use in state courts throughout the Commonwealth.

Statewide Juror List: To create a more diverse juror pool that better reflects Pennsylvania’s demographics, the Committee successfully sought passage of Act 37, which established a much more inclusive statewide list of potential jurors comprised of individuals identified by four state agencies. The Committee continues to monitor the use of the statewide list by judicial districts and is working with the AOPC and the four agencies to find methods of removing duplicate names from the lists produced each year for the districts. As of October 2020, two-thirds of Pennsylvania’s judicial districts were using the list. The Committee has also begun discussions with Pennsylvania’s federal courts about the possibility of establishing a similar list, particularly in light of statutory provisions that permit federal courts to obtain state court records.

Tracking Juror Demographics: In 2013, the Committee conducted a pilot program in which Lehigh, Cumberland, Beaver, and Erie Counties agreed to work with the Committee to amend their juror questionnaire in order to capture the race, ethnicity, gender, and age of the following: (1) those summoned for jury service, (2) those who appeared in court in response to a summons, and (3) those who were selected for jury duty within their judicial districts. The goal of the program was to help judicial districts identify and address any demographic disparities found in their juries. Given the positive results of the program, the Committee is drafting a letter to the PA Supreme Court and all the appropriate Supreme Court Rules Committees recommending that judicial districts revise their summonses and juror questionnaires to help track the same demographic data described above.

Amending the Juror Criminal Disqualification Statute: During the current legislative session, the Committee has been working with key legislators to re-introduce its proposed modifications (listed in the right-hand column under Reports) to 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 4503, Pennsylvania’s juror exemptions and excusals statute that currently contributes to a lack of diversity on state court juries. In addition, the Committee is collaborating with the Governor’s Office and legislators on re-introducing a bill that would reduce the range of criminal offenses that currently disqualify former offenders from jury service for life, effectively disenfranchising African-American males from eligibility for jury service, regardless of the severity of the offense.

Model Jury Instructions: The Committee researched and proposed model jury instructions on jury bias and juror behavior during deliberations, in response to a complaint by a Pennsylvania juror of bias and mistreatment by fellow jurors during performance of her jury duty. Those instructions were submitted to the Supreme Court Committee on Jury Instructions for consideration and use by judicial districts across the state. The Committee’s proposed General Instructions to the Jury and specific amendments to the Pennsylvania standard jury instructions are set forth at right, under Reports.

The Committee's past initiatives include:
  • working with the Supreme Court Civil Rules Committee to draft rules to improve the voir dire process;
  • other initiatives contained within Chapters Two and Three of the Final Report of the Supreme Court Committee on Racial and Gender Bias in the Justice System.