As more jury trials shift to an online format for jury selection, courts are increasingly relying on online jury questionnaires as a way to keep prospective jurors out of court. There are a number of online questionnaire software services – like Snap Surveys, Qualtrics, and Survey Monkey – that courts could use. During the pandemic, some state and federal courts have used Survey Monkey for jurors to answer lengthy questionnaires from home.
Benefits to an Online Jury Questionnaire
Our firm services online jury questionnaires for potential jurors using the popular online survey software, Qualtrics. We’ve offered this service counsel and courts to distribute questionnaires to the panel without in-person contact. There are other benefits to distributing a longer questionnaire online, including:
- Reducing the amount of time that the jurors, the court, court staff, and counsel have to spend in court.
- Thinning the panel by identifying jurors who are ineligible to serve.
- Granting jurors’ hardship requests without in-person contact.
- Having a method of jury questionnaire distribution and completion that does not exclude certain groups who may only have access to a cell phone and not a computer or tablet.
Who Handles the Data?
Deciding which party would be in charge of questionnaire data collection and dissemination might be a source of disagreement between the parties. There are, however, five steps to ensure that both sides have access to the data as it is collected to avoid potential disagreements. First, we must make sure that we’re clear of conflicts with both sides. Second, both sides of the case must agree to the content of the questionnaire. Third, we work with the court to disseminate the jury questionnaire to potential jurors via email. Fourth, we collect and aggregate all of the jurors’ responses to the questionnaire online. Finally, after all prospective jurors have completed the questionnaire, we distribute the data to the court and parties’ counsel.
Fillable PDF Questionnaires
Another option for online jury questionnaires is creating a jury questionnaire in a fillable-form PDF, as shown in the image below. Anyone with a smartphone can download a free PDF app, complete the jury questionnaire, sign it via DocuSign, and email it to the court clerk. The fillable-form PDF method of distribution more closely approximates the look of in-court questionnaires. However, this method of distribution doesn’t allow for sorting jurors on the basis of their questionnaire responses. The ability to sort jurors on the basis of juror questionnaire responses is an added convenience when using online survey software. Sorting the data can streamline the each side’s strategy with respect to additional questioning during online voir dire. Also, having this streamlined process helps attorneys prepare for making cause and peremptory challenges. Regardless, both the online survey and fillable-form PDF keep jurors home and prevent the risk of exposure to the coronavirus in the courthouse, which is the most important concern during this pandemic.