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Online Jury Questionnaires Make Sense…Especially During the Pandemic

Our firm has experiences selecting online juries for actual trials. We used our experiences with online jury selections to inform the content of a survey we conducted with 295 jury-eligible California residents. From those two sources, we’ve learned a lot about how jurors feel about participating in online jury service, and how they feel about completing jury questionnaires online. Generally, we wondered whether potential jurors preferred online jury questionnaires to completing questionnaires in court. We also wondered whether the online format could potentially influence whether potential jurors would be more thorough or honest in the online format, and whether concerns about privacy outweighed any of the other potential benefits of online jury questionnaires. Below we share our data about jurors’ opinions of completing a questionnaire in court compare to their opinions about online questionnaires.

Jurors Prefer Online Questionnaires

As shown in the chart below, 65% agreed “strongly,” and 27% agreed “somewhat” that they’d prefer online over in-person questionnaires. That means that all but 8% agreed that they would prefer doing the questionnaire online.

Thoroughness

During this pandemic, most people want to avoid enclosed public spaces such as a courthouse. It’s no surprise then that jurors would prefer to complete their questionnaires online. A total of 68% agreed “strongly” or “somewhat” that they would be more thorough on an online questionnaire. Taking time to complete the questionnaire, in a safe space of a juror’s choosing, is likely to lead to more thoughtful answers, improving the efficiency and utility of their questionnaire responses. Additionally, online questionnaire platforms may provide for longer responses to some questions than space allotted to responses on a paper questionnaire.

Truthfulness

Fifty-six percent disagreed “strongly” or “somewhat” that they’d be more truthful in an online questionnaire than on a paper questionnaire in court. Differences in truthfulness online versus in-person could be for a number of reasons and can vary between generational groups. In our research, younger participants were more likely to agree with that statement than older participants were.

Privacy Concerns

Jury questionnaires sometimes request personal information that the juror would like to keep private or confidential. Approximately 16% of our sample agreed “strongly,” and 25% agreed “somewhat” that they would be more concerned about privacy when completing a questionnaire online than a paper-and-pen questionnaire in court. We observed a generational affect for this with Gen-X being more concerned about privacy online than Millennials or Baby Boomers.

While jurors prefer online questionnaires, the barriers to the use of online questionnaires come from judges and attorneys who lack familiarity with how to administer the questionnaires online. There are numerous options – from online survey software apps, like SurveyMonkey, Qualtrics, or SnapSurveys – to online forms that more closely mimic the format of traditional paper questionnaires – like Google Forms, Typeform, or Woofu. There are questions about whether jurors have access to the technology necessary for completing these online forms, and about the quality of responses for online versus traditional pen and paper questionnaires. We will address these issues in other posts on this blog. However, we believe that the main barrier to using online questionnaires for jury selection are attorneys, judges and court administrators who are unfamiliar with the process of using online jury questionnaires. If judges, attorneys, and court administrators could overcome any reluctance to using online questionnaires, we believe that the online format for jury questionnaires would quickly become the norm in both state and federal courts. Consultants at Bonora Rountree are eager to share our ideas to help facilitate the use of online questionnaires so that it becomes the standard for courts around the country.

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