Are Jurors Comfortable with Serving Jury Duty in a Courthouse During the Pandemic?

In July, Bonora Rountree commissioned a survey to explore California residents’ views about their willingness to serve as jurors during the pandemic, and the conditions under which they would be willing to serve as jurors. The survey was conducted online, and included 295 jury-eligible residents proportionally drawn from within California’s 58 counties.

Survey respondents were asked to rank, on a 1 to 5 scale, their level of comfort with 7 different activities, with 1 being “Extremely Uncomfortable” and 5 being “Extremely Comfortable.” The chart below shows that survey respondents were more uncomfortable serving as a juror than any of the other activities we explored. Nearly three-quarters of the respondents (74%) expressed options conveying the most discomfort with serving as a juror.

At the time of this survey, the prevalence of the coronavirus was on an upswing, and there was significant uncertainty about whether the virus was likely to be transmitted via contact with infected surfaces. As a result, many counties within the state produced videos intended to educate the public about safety precautions that courts have taken to ensure potential jurors’ safety. One video, produced by the Los Angeles Superior Court demonstrates those safety precautions. We included this video in our survey, and asked participants how they felt about jury duty in a courthouse after watching the video. The chart below shows that the video had the intended effect making the public more comfortable serving as a juror.

Efforts to alleviate public concerns about transmission of the coronavirus appeared to work. After viewing the Los Angeles Superior Court’s video, the percentage of those who were extremely uncomfortable serving as a juror went from 50% to 24%. On the other end of the continuum, the percentage of people who expressed extreme comfortability increased slightly from 8% to 12%.

Court administrators and judges should be encouraged that informing the public about steps to minimize coronavirus transmission works. However, additional steps in protection will further strengthen the public’s faith in the courts’ efforts. In fact, our research and post-trial interviews with actual jurors reveal that jurors have more faith in some safety measures than in others. And, there are characteristics about members of the public who are most likely to show up for a trial during the pandemic. Fortunately, these interesting findings help our team prepare for contemporary trials during this unfortunate time. 

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