Maricopa County Superior Court Improves Juror Experience

by Tim Tait and Vincent Funari

PHOENIX (October 2, 2023) – A jury summons is no longer an all-day invitation to sit and wait in the courthouse since Superior Court gave the residents of Maricopa County what they wanted – an efficient, improved juror experience that values their time.

With compensation up to $300 per day for empaneled jurors, the Superior Court is changing the way jury duty is conducted in Maricopa County.  


“Our goal is to not waste the time of jurors, while selecting a fair jury,” said Judge Joseph Kreamer who leads the Court’s Jury Advisory Committee. “The process is quicker, and we explain things better to the jury.” 


Superior Court credits their jury duty improvements to juror feedback, data analysis and its commitment to always looking to refine the jury process.  


“The jury office looks at our juror data daily. It’s important for us to listen to surveys and juror comments,” Jury Administrator Matthew Martin said. “We hear everything imaginable from parking issues to treatment from judicial staff. So, it’s critical that we are always open to change because we can’t hold court without our jurors.” 


One of the most significant improvements over the past year has been the change to juror compensation.  


“Since last September, empaneled jurors are being reimbursed for lost income, up to $300 a day starting from day one. Since the compensation was adjusted, Superior Court has been paying out more than $100,000 a month to jurors,” Martin said. “We are not seeing as many financial hardship requests during the prescreening process.”  


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The Court also considered the busy lifestyles and obligations of its residents and determined the jury selection process needed to be streamlined. There was a need in the community to reduce the amount of time jurors spend at the courthouse.  


“When I started as a judge, we selected a jury by bringing a whole bunch of people in the courtroom to ask them a whole bunch of questions. It seemed to take a long time, and I think it was a struggle for a lot of people. The jury process is much different than it used to be,” Judge Kreamer said.  


Superior Court now staggers the arrival times for jurors, so they don’t spend as much time in the Jury Assembly Room. To further speed up the process, most jurors are given a case-specific questionnaire upon arrival, which gives judicial officers the ability to review their responses before the jurors report to their courtroom. 


“We already know a lot about jurors before they get to the courtroom,” Judge Kreamer said. “This allows us to make better use of our time by asking questions that matter. We get to the point, which allows us to get to trials more quickly.”


As a result, excusals are accomplished faster and those empaneled are selected sooner. No longer are people waiting until the end of the day to find out if they have been released.


While it’s important for jurors to get released as soon as possible, the Court also wants jurors to enjoy their time at the Court and be as comfortable as possible.


“The Court has upgraded amenities for jurors, and the Jury Assembly Room is a very large and comfortable environment. One of the most beneficial services we provide is our business area. A lot of people who serve are missing work. So, we gave jurors a space for them to plug in their computers and do their work while they are waiting,” Martin said. “We also offer a quiet space, free Wi-Fi, microwaves, vending machines, and we are located next to the cafeteria.”


The United States and Arizona constitutions guarantee the right to trial by jury. All Maricopa County residents are obligated by state law to serve as a juror, unless excused. If summoned, jurors must call after the 5 p.m. the night before they are expected to report to verify if they are needed.  


“I tell folks that you must respond to your jury summons because if you don’t, odds are, we are going to ask you to come in and explain why you didn’t,” Judge Kreamer said. “Look, you don’t want to get out of jury duty. At the end of their service, most jurors will tell you, despite the inconveniences, they are glad they did it and would love to do it again. They feel the trial was fair because they were there.” 


Jurors are a vital part of American democracy, and all citizens must fulfill their duty and respond to their summons.  If a person receives a summons in the mail, they must fill out the juror questionnaire at prior to their arrival.


Last year, Maricopa County Superior Court summoned 324,000 jurors.  


“It’s essential we have an inclusive jury panel of one’s peers. We want to have as representative of jury as possible,” Martin said. “It’s important to report to jury service, ask questions and learn about the process.” 


To reinforce the importance of responding appropriately to a summons for jury service, the Maricopa County Superior Court will hold a series of hearings on Oct. 20 to seek answers from community members who have ignored or failed to respond to their summons for jury service. These “order to show cause” hearings will ask as many as 20 citizens why they have failed to report.


Those appearing have, for this required court hearing, been served summons by the Maricopa County Sherriff’s Office. That summons, served in-person by uniformed deputies, requires attendance at the hearing but only a judge can issue sanctions to someone who fails to appear pursuant to a summons. Citizens without legitimate excuses may be fined and ordered to report for jury service. 


The Oct. 20 hearings will be open to the public and media. Those who fail to appear for their “order to show cause” hearing could be fined up to $500 – and still be compelled to appear for jury service.    

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