Court goes digital with email jury summonses

Photo from Alaska Court System
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - No longer will Alaska citizens be receiving those auspicious blue envelopes in the mail calling on them to report to court for jury duty.

That is if they are checking their email regularly.

In November, the court system began sending jury summonses electronically statewide in an effort to reduce labor and save money on postage stamps.

So far, officials say they have already saved $5,000 on postage alone. It doesn't sound like much, but with 120,000 jury summonses sent out annually, and postcard stamps sitting at $0.35, the expenses on postage stamps alone pencil out to over $40,000 a year.

The court has started moving towards digital notifications across the system with text reminders for service - which have increased juror appearances by 10-15% - and e-filing of court documents for lawyers, but the jury summonses only started being sent to Anchorage-area residents a couple of months ago after administrators realized that they had email addresses for over 90% of the jury pool from Permanent Fund dividend rolls.

"Overwhelmingly, it's a very good way to communicate with people," said Alaska District Court Judge Leslie Dickson.

She said only about 3% of the addresses end up being returned as invalid, while about 25% of people respond within a week of receiving the email.

"The responses have been sometimes instantly, or within a week, so we're getting responses from our jurors much more quickly, which is good for everybody," said Dickson.

The main concern is that people aren't aware the court system is sending them emails, and don't open it because they fear it is junk. Administrators say that citizens can always check their juror status online by clicking the "Jury Service" link on the top of their webpage.

So how long until summonses are delivered via the next technology platform - say, Snapchat?

"I don't know, it might be a while before we get to Snapchat summons," she said.

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