There is a huge issue today with the criminal justice system, and nobody is talking about it. In many cases, especially in urban settings, over 30% percent of jury summons are going unanswered with most of those because they are not being delivered to the correct address. The Dallas County Jury Coordinator said that less than 40% of summonses turn into jurors showing up for duty. Around 20% of Texans are not living in the same residence they lived in a year ago. More importantly, younger individuals and minority individuals are less likely to stay in the same place as compared to their older or white counterparts. The inability to reach these individuals to come play a part in our jury process is causing a very one dimensional jury, that dimension being white and older.
The solutions to this problem are not easily found, however Professor John Browning discusses serving individuals via the internet in his article “Served Without Ever Leaving the Computer” why not use that same process with jury summons? As of January 2014, over seventy percent of Americans have a Facebook account, and over eighty-five percent of the world’s citizens have an email address. These accounts are not changed at nearly the same frequency as mailing addresses. To go further, seventy three percent of Americans have phone numbers with texting capabilities as of three years ago. Why not use these advances in technology as a way to reach more people for jury summons and fix the issues we currently have with deliverability of summonses?
Many other types of service are allowed in Texas. The Texas Rules of Civil Procedure allows for “substituted service.” Service of citation by publication is allowed by the Texas Family Code. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §102.010. Many other parts of the world are allowing service by social media as explained by John Browning’s Article “Served Without Ever Leaving the Computer”
The issues to be dealt with would be with collecting this data for governmental use, being able to see if the juror received the message, and giving the government the necessary capabilities. However, if we sent the emails, Facebook messages, and text messages in joint effort with the mailings we currently use as our jury summons it would do nothing other than widen the net for use, and the collection of email addresses and Facebook accounts can be done in the same way as collecting mailing addresses. The likelihood of connecting with young and minority citizens would be greatly increased by incorporating new and improved techniques into reaching out to them. As it stands now, we are only handicapping the democratic system by our inability to get certain classes of citizens into the courtroom to serve their duty as jurymen. The costs of implementing the new processes of service would be minor, mass form emails, mass form texts, and possibly mass form Facebook messages based off information gathered by a census would be fairly simple, the only thing stopping us is us.