Adopt-a-State Task 2021-01
We will do a baseline search for jury-related legislation introduced into state legislatures in their 2021 sessions. Please do your best to send me your results by Monday, 22 February 2021. That will give you two weeks for this first task, including two weekends to work on this. (If you are unable to work on this particular task in that timeframe due to other conflicts, simply reply to the task email to let me know.)
Click any of the links below to jump directly to a specific section or scroll down for all the information:
How to Do the Task
In this task, you will search for jury-related legislation and then you will collect and send me some specific information about it. If you are a more visual learner, you may want to play the video below and follow along with it step-by-step for your own state as a supplement to the written directions. (The one thing I forgot to include in the video is one additional search term: "juror".)
Part 1: Search
2. Look for the National Legislative Search heading in the lower lefthand corner of their home page.
3. Under the National Legislative Search heading:
a. select your assigned state from the State dropdown list
b. leave the Bill Number field blank
c. type the search term “jury” into the Full Text Search field
d. click the Search button
If a bill seems relevant to our interests, you will report that bill to me per the below process. Don’t spend any time agonizing over whether or not something is relevant. If you’re not sure, just go ahead and send it to me and I will take a look. You’re the first line of review to do sort of a rough cut of the data. Once you have narrowed down the number of bills I need to look at, I will go over it with a fine tooth comb and look at everything before it goes on our website or we use it in any other way.
Part 2: Report Your Findings
4. In your email program, reply to the email I sent you for this task.
5. In the body of the email, type in the name of the state you have adopted.
6. Review the first bill you see on the Search Results page by reading the Summary/Title column to determine if they should be reported to me or not. (Don’t worry if there is a long list. Most of them will not be relevant and that will be fairly evident from the description in the Summary/Tite column.)
For the search term “jury” we want to track legislation related to do with the general function of juries such as jury selection, questioning of prospective jurors, instructions to jurors (including, but not limited to jury nullification instructions), jury size, the jury’s role in sentencing either in capital or non-capital cases, changes to jury tampering rules, restrictions on jurors, how grand juries operate, juror compensation, etc.
What we do not need to track are the bills you will find that incidentally mention the word jury in them because it is part of that section of the law, but are actually about something else such as labor disputes, real estate licensing, public employee retirement systems, etc.If you’re not sure whether it is relevant to FIJA or not, go ahead and report it to me and I will figure it out.
7. Copy and paste into the body of the email under your state’s name the following information for each bill you see that is relevant to FIJA:
a. bill number (e.g. H 110, HB 2113, HJR 2, S 11, SB 435)
b. URL (web page address) for the legislative status page of that bill on Legiscan (e.g. https://legiscan.com/OR/bill/HB2210/2021 ) which you can find by clicking on the bill number on the results page
c. bill summary text from the legislative status page on Legiscan for that bill (e.g. Conforms felony jury verdict statute with constitutional rule requiring guilty verdicts to be unanimous. Requires not guilty verdicts in cases involving felonies to be unanimous. Establishes process by which person with qualifying conviction based on nonunanimous jury verdict may apply to have conviction set aside. Directs district attorneys to make reasonable efforts to identify convictions based on nonunanimous jury verdicts and notify convicted person of ability to set aside conviction.)
8. Repeat step 7 until you have gone through all of the bills in your search results. The search on the word jury will probably be the one with the most results, and likely many of them will not be relevant. This search will pull up any legislation that includes the word injury as well. You should be able to tell pretty quickly from the Summary/Title column if we need to capture it or not.
9. Once you have looked through all the bills for the search term “jury”, repeat the process for "juror" (looking for the same sorts of things as for the term "jury"), “asset forfeiture”, “plea bargain”, “plea deal”, “plea agreement”, and “speedy trial”.
For the search term “asset forfeiture”, we want to track bills that would eliminate asset forfeiture or make it dependent on first securing a criminal conviction. We do not need to track bills that mention it only as being a funding source for some other program.
For the search term “speedy trial”, we want to track any legislation that would change speedy trial deadlines permanently or give the government more power to temporarily suspend or toll speedy trial deadlines, or otherwise grant itself more leeway in calculating the number of days it is allowed before it must bring a person to trial or drop the charges against them.
For all three search terms related to plea bargaining, we are looking for pretty much anything you find on those.
10. When you have gone through all the search terms, simply send me the email with all the bills you listed to report.
What We Are Trying to Achieve
The goal of our first task is to compile a list of jury-related legislation that directly or indirectly involves or impacts jurors’ right of conscientious acquittal via jury nullification. Such legislation falls into a few categories:
1. Each year a few states have a jury nullification bill filed. We, of course, want to capture those.
2. There are many other bills directly related to criminal and civil trials by jury, grand juries, jury involvement in capital and other sentencing, jury selection, etc. that can impact jurors’ or prospective jurors’ ability to use or likelihood of using their right of jury nullification. We also want to take a look at and track many of these.
3. There are some other issues that are more indirectly related which are also important to preserving the foundations for jury nullification. Things like weakening of speedy trial deadlines, asset forfeiture, and plea bargaining undermine people's willingness to risk or even to get a trial by jury. As I have said more than ever this year... there is no jury nullification without trial by jury. Therefore, these are the sorts of indirect issues we also want to keep tabs on.
How This Information Will Be Used
This information will be published on the FIJA website on our Key Legislation page to inform the public about legislative developments in their area. Each state page in the Jury Health Project will also link to the corresponding state on the Key Legislation page to make it accessible to those browsing a given state’s Jury Health Project page.
We will be sharing this information in our weekly 15 Minutes with FIJA Zoom sessions, with our constituents on social media and our email list, in our annual State of the Jury System briefings, and will be using it in written pieces throughout the year to educate the media, other interest groups, and policymakers about the implications of these proposed changes.
Over time, patterns that become evident from this data will prove useful to those in legislative advocacy both by raising awareness of future bad legislation to be on the lookout for in their state legislatures and by providing insight for how to craft and promote legislative measures to fortify jury rights.
How Do I Get Help?
Because the point of this is to make the process more efficient and not more time-consuming, individual help over the phone is not a practical option. But you do have three other ways to get help:
1. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Email helps me out because it does not interrupt me in the middle of a task, it is much quicker for me to read, and it makes it easy for me to figure out an answer before I respond to you saving us both the time of twiddling our thumbs while I think about it or me having to call you back. You can email me to let me know what you’re having trouble with. Be sure to let me know on what step number you got hung up and what the problem was. If it turns out that I have been unclear or incorrect on something, I will send a follow up email to everyone with an update.
If you have problems and would like a walk-through on Zoom, where I can share my screen, let me know by email no later than Monday, 15 February. I will schedule a Zoom office hour sometime in the 16-20 February 2021 timeframe for everyone who would like to drop in an get live help.
If you are on Facebook, join the FIJA Adopt-A-State Volunteers group and post your issue there. I will be checking that frequently, but other participants may also be able to help you out with their wisdom. If you are a member of the group and can answer a question someone else posts, please feel free to chime in to help them out!