New jury system brings challenges for Ga. counties

, The Associated Press


 AUGUSTA, Ga. — Joan Shackelford's phone is always ringing.

In fact, since July 1, when Georgia expanded the number of citizens eligible for jury duty, Richmond County's jury clerk averages 600 calls a week.

"Everything has pretty much more than doubled," Shackelford said about the results of a new statewide jury pool.

Until this year, Georgia counties were among the last in the nation still using the "balanced box" system of jurors. The box is demographically representative of each county's race and sex, but it excludes a large percentage of eligible citizens from serving on a jury.

The new jury pool, created by the Jury Reform Act of 2011, draws from the Department of Driver Services' records and includes just about everyone with a driver's license in Georgia.

While it serves the purpose of creating an inclusive list, its implementation has brought challenges.

Richmond County's pool of potential jurors has grown since July 1 from 20,000 - mostly culled from voting rolls - to about 100,000.

Starting the jury roll from scratch means that all who were previously exempt because of age or other circumstances are now receiving summonses. It also means citizens who served on juries within the past two years are receiving summonses in the mail.

Another challenge results because many motorists don't change their driver's license address, so some people who live in other counties are called to Richmond County jury duty.

All of that leads to hundreds of calls and e-mails.

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