For some people, jury summons is like a short, welcome vacation–an experience worthy of appraisal. For most people, it’s an exercise in creativity in order to generate sufficient grounds to be dismissed. For people interested in crowdsourcing and open participation, it’s an interesting case to be studied.

Jury duty begins with a line to enter the courthouse and pass through the security (remove belts, jacket, but at least you can keep your shoes on). If you arrived early, you will have to wait till the reporting time in order to enjoy the informational video (complete with testimonials), explaining how important jury duty is, and how it is “a deep and moving experience to be on a jury”.

After the 20 min video, a chipper judge peps the jury pool about how wonderful it is to be called for jury duty because “our system of justice is the envy of the world,” so even if you never get called to court and just sat in the jury lounge all day, you shouldn’t “think that you wasted your day”, because “patience is required.” If you do get called to a court, you should not “conduct independent research” on anything you heard in the court, because all the relevant information will be presented to you in due time, so just remember that, “patience is required.”

The Jury duty summons elicits groans in most people for a reason:

  1. Jury duty pulls you to court at the convenience of the court, irrespective of your schedule. Yes, there are excuses, and you can postpone service, but many of the excuses are only for those with slightly more extreme circumstances.
  2. Jury duty is held in one of the most inconvenient places in the city. The downtown court has NO free parking, and driving around the maze of one way streets in downtown is no fun anyway.
  3. The waiting game is not fun.

It’s a bit like being dragged to an amusement park that you don’t find in the least bit amusing; line to get in, lot of waiting around, limited places to get food you wouldn’t normally eat, unless you want to go outside and then play with the Superior Court TSA again.

I understand that jury duty is important–not only are the stakes high, but people who sit on trials are more likely to participate in the democratic process. While I appreciate the gravitas involved in jury duty (lives will be affected by the outcome of the decision), I wonder if there isn’t a way to make the juror selection process more efficient?

Crowdsourcing has been explored in the context of improving patient care, financing entrepreneurs and alleviating poverty, solving complex biological research problems, and is on track to solve many additional scientific research issues in research itself, neuroscience, astronomy amongst many other subjects. Heck, a crowd of gamers players were even able to organize themselves such that they were able to actually complete the game they were playing.

If crowdsourcing can potentially play a role in making medical care more affordable, and more efficient, could it play a role in improving jury duty? The idea has emerged before, but has yet to be fully explored. Anyone up for the challenge?

On a side note, if you’re interested in citizen science, visit to find a citizen science project, or sign up on the interest list for


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