Postcard-sized jury summons coming soon

Beginning in mid-March, Ector County residents summoned for jury duty will notice the physical jury summons has a new look.
Ector County officials unveiled that the county will shrink down the mailed summons to a single postcard following legislation that went into effect September 2017. Ector County District Clerk Clarissa Webster said the Texas legislature updated the law that required information such as jury qualifications and the accompanying questionnaire be provided in printed form. She said the current summons is two pages front and back.
“The legislature has updated that trying to take everybody into a process that utilizes the technology that is available to us in this century,” Webster said. “They’ve updated the law to say we now recognize that up to and even greater than 98 percent of the population has access to the internet.”
Webster said the process as a whole remains largely unchanged and jurors will still show up to the courthouse with their jury summons.
“The only difference is before they get here, instead of filling out the questionnaire and turning it in at the door they’ll have responded to the questionnaire online,” Webster said. “It will be a digital response as to a paper response unless they don’t have access to the internet.”
Residents that are unable to access the online questionnaire can still serve as a juror and will be required to submit the paperwork in person when they report for jury service. Webster said the existing summons will stay in place for March panels as the county depletes the remaining jury summons stock. Beginning around March 15, residents can start looking for postcards instead.
“This is a very exciting time for Ector County,” Webster said.
District Attorney Bobby Bland said the update could add efficiency to the process and reduce wait times for jurors. He said scanning information from the barcode on the postcard might allow them to process jurors quicker.
County Commissioners on Tuesday approved spending $17,254 to modernize the jury summons service process, down from about $31,390 that was spent last year. Ector County Assistant Purchasing Agent Lucy Soto said three bids were received, but it came down to QuestMark Information Management out of Houston and a company based in New York. Soto said QuestMark came in with the lowest price and was awarded the bid by commissioners.
Webster said the switch will result in a 45 percent savings by simplifying the summons and cutting down on postage. Soto said that the amount saved allows more funds to return to the general budget.
Webster said delaying implementation of the new summons was intentionally chosen to lower some possible confusion.
“We didn’t want to be the first county to go live with just postcards for jury summons so we waited to see a couple of other counties do it successfully,” Webster said. “The counties that we have talked to have all had increased attendance instead of decreased, and we have already started using our online responses and more than half of our panels are already responding online.”
Bland said it is in the best interest of justice to have a high response rate.
“The jury system only works if the public participates and is involved,” he said, and “the more jurors the better.”