"There's a sense in the community, I think most folks when they get that envelope in the mail that says 'jury summons' on it, a lot of people tend to think, 'you know, gosh, I've got a jury summons. You know, I've got to go waste a day and go down there.'"
But with thousands of cases on the criminal and civil dockets, Jackson says it's crucial for citizens to answer their summons. Jackson says they need jurors for cases ranging from minor property disputes, on up to capital murder cases.
"You know, usually for a capital murder case we might have a panel of 150 people. And sometimes you'll go through a whole panel of 150 just to get one juror. And you have to get another panel of 150. You might get one more juror out of there. And you just keep going and going and going until you get the number of jurors you need."
Jackson says Harris County sends out about 16-thousand summons every week, with about 70 percent of people responding. As for those who don't show up, Jackson blames apathy, something he's hoping to turn around with new educational initiatives. He says pay for jurors has also been raised to forty dollars for their second day of service and beyond. Jackson himself was called for jury service before he took office, and he says he realized there were a lot of things that were needed.
"We have free wireless internet in the jury assembly room now. We have satellite TV. You can reschedule your jury service online, on our website at www.hcdistrictclerk.com. You can re-print out your new jury summons."
The District Clerk's office also hands out comment cards and Jackson says they get lots of interesting feedback.
"It ranges anywhere from, can you put new seats — more comfortable seats — in the jury assembly room, all the way up to, we want free parking, or we think there should be free coffee and doughnuts when we come to jury service."
Jackson says they're reviewing those comments as they prepare to move into the new Jury Plaza, a high-tech jury assembly area now under construction across from the Criminal Justice Center. The facility is scheduled to open next year.