Information on individual jurors is a matter of personal privacy and is covered by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The right to access juror information is a “qualified right”, meaning that is limited to specific conditions. This right is also known as the “right of access”.
Public access to juror information is generally limited to the following two phases of a criminal trial:
- Voir dire- Voir dire refers to the process of jury selection. Once the jury is chosen, the public has a right to access the names and addresses of all jurors and their alternates. The information is available in the public record, and transcripts of the voir dire jury selection proceeding can also be obtained.
- Preliminary hearings: Both the First Amendment and court rulings grant public access to transcripts from any preliminary hearings regarding jurors.
The right of access is part of the overall principle of public access in the U.S. justice system. That is, the public has a right to attend trials and to learn relevant information on the selected jury. This helps prevent abuses of the legal system through jury bias.
When are juror identities not revealed in a criminal trial?
Occasionally, a judge may decide to conceal the private information of jurors in a criminal case. They may choose to block public access to juror names and addresses in situations where public knowledge of jurors may present some concerns.
These situations can include:
- The criminal defendant in the case is considered to be extremely dangerous, and may present a threat of retaliation against the jurors or their loved ones
- The criminal defendant is known to have a history of intimidating, bribing, or harming jurors or their alternates
- The candidates for jury have informed the court that they are seriously concerned about releasing their name or personal contact information to the public
- In high-profile cases, disclosing juror information can sometimes attract undesirable media attention or intrusion
While juror information may be withheld from the public during the trial, it is usually released once a final verdict has been reached.
Are the laws changing regarding the release of juror information?
Yes, there is a recent legislative movement to limit the disclosure of the names and addresses of jurors. This is a growing trend that seeks to protect juror privacy by limiting the right of access to information on judicial proceedings.
For example, Texas has recently enacted a statute prohibiting attorneys and court staff from releasing juror information. The state of Colorado also has similar statutes. In California, juror information is actually sealed at the end of the criminal trial. It can then only be accessed if there is good cause to do so, and if the juror does not object to disclosure.
Thus, in many states the right of access is becoming increasingly limited as the privacy rights of jurors are protected more.
Should I contact a lawyer if I have an issue regarding juror information?
Regardless of whether you are acting as a juror, or are seeking to obtain juror information, you should understand that public access to such information is limited. There are many concerns about juror privacy and safety, especially in major criminal cases. You may wish to obtain the advice of criminal law attorney to determine your rights regarding the release of private juror information.