Fort Worth

Fort Worth jury duty? New online tool makes it easier

A defendant stands in front of Municipal Court Judge Neel McDonald. A new system allows jurors to perform some jury-related functions online, beginning this week.
A defendant stands in front of Municipal Court Judge Neel McDonald. A new system allows jurors to perform some jury-related functions online, beginning this week. Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner

Beginning this week, jurors in Fort Worth can complete questionnaires, change their reporting date and perform other jury-related functions online without having to call or come to the courthouse.

Fort Worth Municipal Court on Monday began sending new summons cards to jurors with the option of an online check-in and tracking tool, improving efficiency for court system operations and jurors. Summons sent this week are for court dates in mid-November.

“Our goal is to make the jury experience as easy and pleasant as possible,” Court Director Theresa Ewing said.

The new system, called Jury Plus, also saves the city money. Instead of the court mailing letters with questionnaires, summons are now sent on a postcard directing jurors online to fill out the questionnaire.

“Going from an actual letter to a postcard is a substantial savings,” Ewing said.

Those without computer access can still fill out the questionnaire on the day of their service.

“They can come down, they can call, this is just an added service,” the court director said.

The new system also sends out reminders, which should help with the response rate.

Ewing said about 375 to 400 citizens are summoned each week for two jury courtrooms, 25 to 30 of which claim an exemption or disqualification. Currently about 15 to 20 percent do not respond to the summons or show up for jury duty.

If a juror does not respond to the summons via online, or if they do not show up for court, Jury Plus automatically sends another postcard with a new date.

Using the new system, jurors also can review their service status, request a service verification for employers and check their reporting information via smart phone, iPad or tablet, Ewing said.

Future enhancements include weather closure notifications so instead of jurors calling the court, the court will notify them.

Tarrant County Court has a similar service for jurors. Using eResponse, jurors can log in and complete qualification questionnaires and confirm jury status.

Susan McFarland: 817-390-7984, @susanmcfarland1

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