State overhaul expands local jury duty pool

‘Forced’ System designed to eliminate discrimination

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FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — A major overhaul this summer of Georgia’s jury system will expand the Forsyth County jury pool to include every citizen who is legally eligible.

“Every resident who is at least 18 years old and is a citizen of the county, who votes or has a drivers’ license will be eligible for jury duty,” said Greg Allen, clerk of the Superior Court of Forsyth County.

Georgia was the only state remaining that required “forced balancing” of jury pools as a means for ensuring that, as jury pools were created by local jury commissions in the state’s 159 counties, the pools were not skewed according to gender or race.

Since the 1970s, the state has relied on the method, but it was the only state in the nation still using it. The new system is designed to eliminate any opportunity for discrimination on any grounds, Allen said.

“This is a radical change as we now have a new jury pool of 144,698 names of persons who may be summoned for service as jurors for traverse jury trials and the grand jury,” Allen said. “In the past, separate jury ‘boxes’ for traverse jury and grand jury were pulled from a jury pool that was updated every one to two years.

“The traverse jury box contained around 12,000 potential jurors, while the grand jury box had 1,000 potential jurors. Only individuals whose names were in the ‘box’ were summoned for jury duty.”

The new role of the Jury Commission ultimately will be to approve jurors’ requests for permanent excusal from jury service.

By law, those reasons include death, non-residency and permanent medical and/or mental infirmaries attested to by a medical doctor.

Persons who are convicted felons and who have not had their civil rights restored automatically are disqualified from jury service.

Allen said that because new jury lists are being used, “snafus” may occur, such as persons who have been permanently excused from jury service inadvertently getting summoned for jury duty.

“My staff and I will do everything we can to prevent problems from happening,” he said. “Any time changes of this magnitude are required that include such a large number of citizens, there is the possibility of duplicate names and likelihood for some error.” Contact the clerk’s office to begin the corrective measures at 770-781-2120, Option 3, or email jury@forsythclerk.com.