New jury management system will soon roll out in St. Joseph County

WSBT 22 photo

St. Joseph County now has a new jury management system.

Court administrators say the automated system will streamline communication between potential jurors and the Courts.

Until now, thousands of questionnaires were printed, put in envelopes, and mailed. Then recipients had to write out their responses and mail it back.

“It’s laborious and expensive and a lot of times we get a lot of return mail or people simply don’t access or return the questionnaires because maybe it’s cumbersome," said St. Joseph Co. Director of Information Technology, Scott Senff.

This new system does not involve pages & pages of paper.

Instead, potential jurors will receive a pink postcard with the words "Official Juror Notification" letting them know to complete their questionnaire. Jurors will be able to complete their questionnaires three different ways – through a website, via text message or over the phone.

When a jury summons arrives in the mail, people can use the new system to submit requests to be excused or deferred to another date. It also allows them to see when there are changes in a court hearing so time isn’t wasted, waiting at the courthouse.

The system is also expected to save the county money in paper, postage, supplies and employee time.

“This will all be automated which I think will save a lot of time and give my staff more time work on things of more pressing nature," said Judge Jeff Sanford of the St. Joseph County Superior Court.

St. Joseph County Circuit Court Administrator Lisa Plencner said the new system should boost questionnaire responses from potential jurors and responses to summons.

“In order to receive a fair jury trial, we are asking people to participate because we need a really good cross-section of our community. That’s really what the trial by jury system is all about and in order to get a fair jury trial, you need to be tried by a jury of your peers. So the bigger cross-section of our citizens participating in jury service is a better way for us for people to get a more fair trial," said Plencner.

The new software was paid for, in part, by a Court Improvement Grant from the Indiana Supreme Court. The rest is being funded by the county. This project is due to be revenue neutral within the first year or two.

The first postcards under this new system should be sent out the first week of January.

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