Capitol Report

Capitol Report

September 27, 2021

Judiciary issues notice directing records requests for jury records

Acting Administrative Director of the Courts Judge Glenn A. Grant issued a directive spelling out the requirements for requests for jury records pursuant to New Jersey Rule of Court 1:8-5 (Availability of Petit Jury List) and the state Supreme Court’s opinion in State v. Dangcil. Decided last month, the case questioned the efficacy of Bergen County’s jury selection process and its ability to produce a jury pool that represents a fair cross section of the community. The New Jersey State Bar Association (NJSBA) appeared as amicus curiae in Dangcil, arguing that in order to assert that the process was fair, it was important to have demographic information of all jurors, including those who were dismissed. The NJSBA brief in the matter, drafted by Lawrence S. Lustberg and Michael R. Noveck of Gibbons, P.C., referenced similar recommendations made by the NJSBA Pandemic Force Resumption of Juries Subcommittee that had been submitted to the Court earlier. As a result of this case, the Court ordered that such information be collected moving forward.

Rule 1:8-5 makes available a general panel of petit jurors to any party requesting it at least 10 days prior to the date fixed for trial. Requests for this list should be directed to the Jury Management Office via electronic mail to the jury manager and by fax or hand delivery to the Jury Management Office.

The notice further makes clear that in addition to the standard petit jury list, the Judiciary can provide the following upon a timely request (10 days prior to selection):

    The names of any and all prospective jurors who were dismissed from jury service pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2B:20-1 and the reasons for their dismissal

    The names of any and all prospective jurors who were excused from jury service pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2B:20-10, and the reasons for their excusal

    The names of any and all prospective jurors who were deferred from jury service, and the reasons for their deferral

Information on jurors who were not scheduled to report for service will be released under protective order signed by the assignment or trial judge. The order shall specify the authorized purposes for which such information can be used and shall note the redaction of juror addresses and phone numbers.

Requests of juror dismissals, excusals and deferrals records should be directed by electronic mail to the Superior Court Clerk’s Office (SCCOO [email protected]) and copied to the jury manager and statewide manager of jury programs ([email protected]).

Dangcil was the first defendant to face the hybrid jury selection process following a series of orders from the Supreme Court outlining the procedures for drawing a jury pool. The Jury Management Office summoned 800 people for the jury pool, all but 265 jurors of whom were deemed unqualified to serve. Out of these jurors, the Jury Management Office then granted deferrals of service due to calendaring conflicts, but did not collect any demographic data of those jurors. Dangcil argued that the empaneled jury—which was predominantly white and under age 50—was not representative of a cross section of the community. In arguing for a new trial, he maintained that it was impossible to determine if those excused disproportionately affected the composition of the final jury pool because no data was collected. Though he did not prevail, the Supreme Court ordered that this data be collected.

The NJSBA was pleased with the ruling and believes the decision to direct juror data collection is an important one.

“The NJSBA believes in the foundational constitutional right to a fair and impartial jury, with a process that allows for a jury pool drawn from a fair cross section of the community,” said NJSBA President Domenick Carmagnola following the Dangcil decision. “Especially with the challenges presented by the public health pandemic, the NJSBA believes increased transparency in the selection process is critical to ensure these rights are fully protected.”

This is a status report provided by the New Jersey State Bar Association on recently passed and pending legislation, regulations, gubernatorial nominations and/or appointments of interest to lawyers, as well as the involvement of the NJSBA as amicus in appellate court matters.