Getting people to show up for one of the most important civic duties is requires a lot of coordination and effort. The fast-paced schedule of one’s normal, everyday life is lot to work around. Technology has helped in this regard but it also seems to have made busy lives even busier. Getting information to potential jurors in a timely way is the most important facet of operating an efficient jury operation. The quicker you can get info to the juror, the more transparency there is and the more likely people will work jury duty into their busy lives.
Until recently, the way courts communicated was to have the public call the court at prescribed times and dates to receive a pre-recorded message about their service. The advent of court websites added the additional option of putting the reporting information up on the web for the juror to obtain. Both options however, require the juror to take action and often with the threat of arrest or punitive actions as the “incentive” to show up for service. That puts the onus on the juror to get the information themselves at a specific time and place. They need to make the call, to log in, to check the website. We call this “Defensive Communication”.
At Courthouse Technologies, we consider Defensive Communication only one part of the successful communication strategy. Defensive Communication flows one-way. If the public does not log in, call in, or go online, they will never acquire the information they need. Possible costly Show Cause proceedings and punishment only exacerbate the situation, taking up even more time and energy while breeding contempt from the very people courts need to “buy in”. In the idiom of Carrot and Stick, Defensive Communication is all stick and no carrot.
I recommend a different way—using technology for “Offensive Communication”. The ability to send outbound messages via email, text, or voice to jurors regarding anything related to their jury service. You send them the information at the earliest time possible instead of having them having to get it in a specific timeframe. In this method, there is a lot more carrot and a lot less stick. Ask yourself, if you were juror, would you rather be provided information you need or have to go out in search of it? I think the answer is “whatever is most convenient”.
In a previous article titled “5 Reasons You Should Be Texting Jurors” I describe how some of the research about text messaging really stood out to me. One was that 90% of texts are read within 10 minutes. The other is that, on average, people check their phone 150 times a day. So, if you are trying to provide information to the greatest number of people, in the widest demographic possible, sending an outbound text message will give you the greatest chance of successful delivery. Add in the public checking emails, and your odds increase further. Providing the information jurors are looking for increases jury yield, and cuts down on the need for aggressive measures to get the public to respond.
All of this is to say, Defensive Communication is not enough. For any court wanting to communicate as much as possible with the public about jury service, a combination of Offensive and Defensive Communication is the best course of action. Start with Offensive Communication as your “go-to” method of communication. Provide the public with what they need and eliminate reasons jurors can give when they don’t report for duty. What can someone say when you try to email, text, phone, or mail them information?
Using both methods of communication can only increase the court’s reach and improve public participation in jury duty. It may be an individual’s responsibility to perform jury duty but getting that individual the information they need is the court’s duty. How well the court performs that duty helps determine the efficiency of a jury operation.