The final provisions of a 2021 law that implemented new rules for summoning jurors recently went into effect on July 1. As of that date, the number of jurors chosen from each town in Connecticut must be proportional to that town’s population within its judicial district.
To determine the proportional representation of each town, the law lays out a formula that involves the “yield ratio,” which is the number of jurors summoned the previous year who appeared for jury service, divided by the town’s proportional share in its judicial district population, and multiplied by the total number of jurors summoned in the judicial district in the previous court year.
Ahead of this provision being implemented, the law created temporary procedures for jury administrators to follow. From July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023, for summons that were undeliverable jury administrators were required to send an additional, randomly generated summons to a juror within the same zip code.
The law also required jury administrators to annually compile the number of jurors summoned from each town who appeared for jury service. That provision went into effect on October 1, 2022.
The law’s first provision expanded the number of Connecticut residents eligible to serve in the jury pool by increasing the minimum age at which an individual can claim an exemption from being summonsed from 70 to 75. It also expanded the pool of eligible jurors by making permanent residents eligible to serve on a jury and shortening the timeframe someone with a felony conviction was barred from jury service from seven to three years. It went into effect on October 1, 2021.
In addition, a provision within the law that added questions to questionnaires sent to prospective jurors went into effect on October 1, 2022. In addition to personal questions about age, race, and occupation, the law required the questionnaire to add questions on gender and other demographic information deemed appropriate by the judicial branch.
The same provision also required the judicial branch to compile records on the demographic characteristics of individuals who are summoned for jury duty, who participate in a panel, who serve on a jury, and who are subject to various challenges.
The law implemented suggested changes to the jury selection process made by the Jury Selection Task Force. The Connecticut Supreme Court created the task force in its ruling in State v. Holmes. The ruling upheld the felony murder conviction of Evan Jaron Holmes, who appealed his conviction on the grounds that the overruling of his objections to a prosecutor’s use of a peremptory challenge to excuse a Black potential juror were improper. The court dismissed and rejected the claim but ordered the task force’s creation to examine racial bias in the jury selection task force and propose solutions to eradicate it.
The task force convened four subcommittees, which looked at the data, statutes, and rules used on juror questionnaires; the juror summoning process; implicit bias in the juror selection process; and juror outreach and education. It released its final report in 2020 and its recommendations were incorporated into the 2021 law.