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Citizens Jury Process

The Citizens Jury process is a method for gathering a microcosm of the public, having them attend five days of hearings, deliberate among themselves and then issue findings and recommendations on the issue they have discussed. No deliberative method has been more carefully designed or thoroughly tested than this method.

The main characteristics of Citizens Juries are:

Random selection of participants
Scientific survey techniques (usually a telephone survey) are used to assemble a jury pool of several hundred people. The goal is to assemble a group representative of the community from which the survey is taken, be this a city, state or the nation.

Microcosm of the public
Twelve to 24 people are selected from the jury pool so as to match the public as a whole in terms of age, education, gender, geographic location, race, and sometimes political attitudes. The goal is to make the Citizens Jury a microcosm of the public. Jurors are paid about $125 a day for their services.

Fair hearings
The jurors attend hearings usually lasting five full days. Witnesses from different points of view are brought before the jurors to present their views, with ample time for the jurors to ask questions. The hearings are moderated by a professional facilitator to insure that all jurors and witnesses get a fair chance to express themselves. An advisory committee representing different points of view is usually used to structure the hearings to insure that a fair balance of views is presented.

Deliberations and report
The jurors are given ample time to deliberate among themselves before reaching their conclusions. They then issue a final report, concentrating on answering a few key questions that were presented to them at the beginning of the hearings. The report also includes an evaluation of the process, especially with regard to whether the event was conducted in a fair and balanced way.

Under what circumstances is the model most successful or fitting?
The Citizens Jury process is most fitting when there is a commitment on the part of the sponsors (usually public officials) to pay serious attention to the recommendations of the jurors. Because such a commitment is very difficult to obtain, the Jefferson Center has stopped actively promoting the process. The Center takes the position that no other deliberative method can deliver quality citizen input from a microcosm of the public as well as the Citizens Jury process. But it is expensive and is not worth doing unless there is a good likelihood that its recommendations will have impact.

The Jefferson Center and the Citizens Jury Trademark
The Citizens Jury process is the trademarked name for a process developed and implemented by the Jefferson Center since 1974. The trademark is not an attempt to 'own' a deliberative method. Anyone interested in using the method without approval from the Jefferson Center can do so, but cannot use the name 'Citizens Jury.' The Center is willing to give permission to use the name to any group prepared to use it properly.

The term 'Citizens Juries' is widely used on the web, given its wide use in Britain and growing use in Australia. The trademark does not apply there. A similar process, the Planungszelle, was developed by Peter Dienel in Germany two years before the process was set up in the U.S. The method has been used extensively in Germany.

Resources on the Citizens Jury process
The book Healthy Democracy by Ned Crosby gives an extensive analysis of the Citizens Jury process and suggests ways of empowering it that can bring about significant changes in the American political system. Instead of petitioning public officials to use the process, proposals are made for how the process can be used to help the public select better candidates who are sincerely committed to the public interest. Currently, so many elected officials are committed to special interests, and the large amounts of money they contribute to campaigns, that the officials have little time for, or interest in, quality deliberative methods of any kind. The book can be ordered from www.BookHouseFulfillment.com.

The Jefferson Center website gives more information on the Citizens Jury process (www.jefferson-center.org). Also, those interested in how the Citizens Jury process can be used to evaluate ballot initiatives in the 24 states that use this process can go to www.cirwa.org.

This text was submitted to NCDD by Ned Crosby. For more information, email Ned at benncro@usinternet.com.

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