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New law changes jury selections

Posted: July 7, 2012 - 11:11pm

A major overhaul of Georgia’s jury system went into effect July 1 that will expand the local jury pool to include every citizen who is legally eligible.

In every county, including Columbia County, every resident who is at least 18 years old and a citizen, who votes or has a driver’s license or state-issued ID card, will be eligible for jury duty under the new law.

Previously, Georgia was the only state that still required “forced balancing” of jury pools. All 159 counties used local jury commissions to ensure the pools were not skewed by gender or race.

Balancing constrained the demographics of the jury pool to match the latest census, meaning clerks removed some individuals from the pool because of their age, sex or race.

The new system is designed to eliminate any opportunity for discrimination, and is a result of changes in state law and Georgia Supreme Court rules adopted after concerns that the previous system was unconstitutional.

Under the new law, the Council of Superior Court Clerks will deliver each county’s jury pool, using a list of prospective jurors compiled using the entire state’s driver’s license file and voter registrations.

Local clerks then will draw names randomly from that certified pool.

The method for drawing grand jurors also changes, with those names also being drawn from the certified pool rather than being chosen from among those deemed by jury commissioners to be “the most intelligent, most experienced and most upright” citizens of the county, as has been the case for more than 200 years.

During the transition to the new system, some problems may occur such as those who previously have been permanently excused from jury duty again being summoned. Those affected should contact the Clerk of Court’s office to request a new affidavit for excusal.

For more information on the changes, call the Clerk of Superior Court’s office at (706) 312-7139, or email clerkinfo@columbia.gsccca.org.

Other information about current laws, policies and procedures related to jury service is available at www.columbiacountyga.gov.

(Cindy Mason is Columbia County’s clerk of Superior Court.)

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