• 70°

County considers adopting I-Jury

Online system could ‘streamline’ jury impaneling

The Jefferson County Commissioners’ Court could soon remove the hassle of jury duty.

The Commissioners met with Jefferson County District Clerk Jamie Smith Monday morning in a workshop to discuss the benefits of switching to I-Jury, an online jury duty impaneling system that could eliminate the need for residents’ summoned to waste a work day in the courthouse.

The commissioners responded to the potential switch positively Monday and left the meeting with a software license agreement to review before voting on the change at a future Commissioners’ Court meeting.

Jill Wiebusch, Jefferson County District Clerk’s Office chief deputy, said using the I-Jury system could have “tremendous” benefits for county residents and staff.

“When people get a summons in the mail now, they have to come in to the courthouse on a given Monday at 8:30 a.m. We have 350 to 400 people waiting for impaneling on any given Monday,” Wiebusch said Monday. “We want to simply and streamline our jury selection process.

“With the I-Jury system, you’d still get your jury summons in the mail. But instead of having to come in and see us, you’d be given a website link and a jury number on the summons. You’d go to the website, enter your jury number and birth date, and the website would send you to the same questions and possible exemptions we would get answers to in person.

“After the questions, I-Jury gives you a three-month window to block out any dates you know you won’t be able to make it in for jury duty. It essentially allows you to select the days that are most convenient for you. After you finish filling out the calendar, you just submit your responses. As soon as you submit your questions and calendar, I-Jury sends you an email with jury dates.”

Wiebusch said the District Clerk’s Office sent out 1,000 survey questionnaires, asking how they’d feel completing the jury impaneling process online instead of at the courthouse, to previous county jurors earlier this year. More than 700 residents returned their surveys.

“Of the questionnaires we got back in the mail, 84 percent of our residents said they were strongly in favor of answering their jury summons online,” Wiebusch said. “It’s a great system, and other counties have had great success with it. Travis County has used it for 10 years, and they report 95 percent of their jurors are using the online system instead of coming in.”

Wiebusch said the I-Jury system is capable of sending email or text message notifications, further streamlining the jury process.

“I-Jury can sends reminders, so one to two weeks away from your jury dates, you’d receive a reminder email or text if you prefer,” she said. “It can also push out notifications for jurors whose cases get settled out of court, so they end up coming to the courthouse only to find out the trial’s been canceled.”

Wiebusch said switching to the I-Jury system would “generate huge savings” for the county.

“When we have 400 people show up for jury impaneling and we only need 200 of them, the county still has to pay all 400 people for their time,” she said. “We realize not everyone will be comfortable going online or will have access to a computer, so we’ll still be able to meet with them in person.

“But if we get the I-Jury system, we won’t need everyone to come in at 8:30 a.m. on a certain Monday. They’ll be able to come in at their convenience during our regular Monday through Friday business hours. It would streamline the entire process for everyone involved.”

Wiebusch said if the Jefferson County Commissioners’ Court votes to make the switch to I-Jury, the District Clerk’s Office is aiming for a summer 2016 start date.

Twitter: @crhenderson90