ASKED & ANSWERED: Kim Foster on electronic juror questionnaire

The federal judges of the Western District of Michigan have approved an electronic juror questionnaire process in the district. The electronic process was pilot tested over the last several months and has been well-received by all participants. Kim Foster is the chief deputy clerk of the U. S. District Court for Western Michigan. A native of Midland, Michigan, he has worked in courts for more than 30 years. He started with the U. S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan as a courtroom deputy before heading off to trial court management positions in the court systems of Oregon and Idaho. He joined the U. S. District Court for Western Michigan in 2003 after 10 years as the circuit court administrator with the 17th Circuit Court in Kent County. Foster earned a B.A. from Michigan State University and a M.S. in Judicial Administration from the University of Denver.

Thorpe: What was the genesis of the program? Why was it needed?

Foster: The idea for the electronic questionnaire process initially started as a way to reduce paper waste for the court. Our jury administrator had noticed the amount of paper we were printing and copying that ultimately ended up in the shredder or trash, so she challenged our IT department to work on a solution. Our IT department in turn worked with our CM/ECF administrator, and they developed the current method of providing the judges, attorneys, and court staff with the juror information needed for voir dire electronically through our Case Management/Electronic Case Filing system (CM/ECF). In addition, this process adds security to any confidential information necessary for the jury selection process as it requires a log on to access it. Also, this process ties in nicely with a national deployment, by the Administrative Office of the U. S. Courts, of new scanning technology that allows all information received by the court, from each individual juror, to be tied into their record on our Jury Management System (JMS).

Thorpe: Tell us how it works, for both jurors and attorneys?

Foster: The jurors do not notice a difference. They just return the requested information they receive in their summons, either by mail in paper form or electronically through eJuror. For attorneys, the e-filing of juror questionnaires under restricted access rather than the production of paper copies, will now become the normal way of doing business in the Western District of Michigan. Like other restricted access documents on CM/ECF, attorneys will be prompted with a login screen when they click the document number link. A court-issued login and password are necessary for the attorney to gain access to the document (you must be a registered attorney with the Western District). After the jury is selected and seated, or if it becomes known to the court that a jury trial will not proceed, attorney access to the document will be removed, and thereafter only the court will have access. The juror questionnaires are assembled into a bookmarked pdf, with a bookmark for each questionnaire. The bookmark equates to their juror number, and allows for quick retrieval/viewing of the questionnaire. The jury administrator/clerk will e- file the questionnaires the customary 3 business days prior to trial. This is how the attorneys and chambers will receive them. Any questionnaires received the morning of trial will be provided to chambers and the attorneys in paper form. Additionally, the jury administrator/clerk will provide one set of paper questionnaires for any pro se party involved in a trial, which will then be collected by the courtroom deputy after jury selection.

Thorpe: What is eJuror?

Foster: eJuror is a national program, tied to JMS, that allows potential jurors the option of responding to their jury qualification questionnaire or summons online through the website of the local federal court that summoned them to jury duty. Jurors choosing to complete these forms electronically don't have to mail them. They also may update personal information, check when they need to report for jury service, submit a request for an excuse or deferral, and select an alternate time to serve. Seventy two of the 94 district courts across the country currently use eJuror.

Thorpe: How does the new process affect the jury time line, if at all?

Foster: There is no impact on the jury timeline due to the electronic questionnaire. As mentioned above, there is no difference to the responding juror because of this new process.

Thorpe: Have you gotten much feedback from users yet? What are they saying?

Foster: This process was piloted with several of our judges for a few months now, so we were very interested in the feedback from those attorneys that used it. All of our feedback was positive. Attorneys love it, as they do not have to run to the courthouse, as they are preparing for trial, to get the paper copies. Through our CM/ECF HelpDesk, we received comments similar to the following, after our broadcast to registered attorneys:

"Kudos to the Western District Fed Court for undertaking this. As a practicing litigator including before the Western District, access to jury questionnaire responses electronically will be very helpful, reducing time and costs associated with otherwise physically obtaining them. Thank you folks for undertaking this project and effort."

--David N. Campos, Esq.

Thorpe: What should users do if they have questions about the new procedure?

Foster: As this is a part of our CM/ECF System process, we would ask our users to contact the Western District of Michigan CM/ECF Help Desk at (800) 290-2742 or

Thorpe: Does your office have any plans to "go digital" on other parts of the court system?

Foster: The federal courts have been fortunate as they have already digitized the case management and electronic court filing of documents through the CM/ECF System. In addition, our court is encouraging more jurors to use the eJuror system as it can reduce the amount of staff time needed to process juror information. Also, especially during these tight budget times, we are constantly looking for ways to make things more efficient and user friendly for our consumers with processes such as the electronic availability of juror information for voir dire.

Published: Tue, Jan 7, 2014