Orange County residents can check in and be excused for jury service without having to step inside a courthouse, thanks to a new online feature, court officials said Monday.
In the past, prospective jurors wanting to postpone their service had to call the court and speak to a clerk. To be excused from service, they mailed or faxed a letter explaining why they should be let off. If their request was denied, they would receive a letter from the court.
The new eJuror system, which went into effect last week, allows prospective jurors to postpone their service instantly. In some cases, requests to be excused from jury duty are also approved automatically. If the court needs more information, it will send an e-mail instructing the person to check online in five days while court staff reviews the request.
The system also allows people to find out whether they must report to court and to which courtroom. It also informs people when their jury service is complete.
"It eliminates the need for jurors to come into court," said Thu Nguyen, jury manager for Orange County Superior Court. "We're pretty certain it will save staff and jurors a lot of time."
Because most requests to be excused are incomplete, clerks spend at least two hours a day calling prospective jurors or writing letters, Nguyen said.
The $120,000 system puts Orange County on par with most large counties. It also has a feature that court officials say is unique in California: Prospective jurors can answer basic questions asked during jury selection. Information such as a person's name, occupation and spouse's occupation is entered online and then put into a report that is sent to the courtroom and given to the judge and lawyers.
The lawyers will probably ask the same questions in court for the record, Nguyen said, but they may save time by not taking as many notes on jurors' responses.
The cost savings of the new system will depend on how many jurors use it, Nguyen said.
"We hope it's going to be a lot," she said. "I can imagine that per clerk, it would save at least a couple of hours a day."
The telephone system will remain available.
To access the system, at www.occourts.org/home/jury/juryserv.asp, potential jurors need their nine-digit identification number, which is printed on their jury summons.