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Judges' Corner

February 5, 1999




Current state law requires Connecticut municipalities to provide social security numbers to the Connecticut Judicial Branch for jury selection purposes. The language in P.A. 97-200, the act which authorized Judicial’s use of social security numbers, clearly specifies each town’s responsibility under the law:

". . . Upon the request of the jury administrator, the registrar of voters of each town shall supply a list of all electors from their town. . . . The lists supplied to the jury administrator under this subsection shall be in the format prescribed by the jury administrator and shall include, at a minimum, the name, address and, if available, the federal social security number and date of birth of each person on such list or the reason for the unavailability." (emphasis added)

A claim has been made that the federal Social Security Act prohibits the use of social security numbers for jury selection purposes. To the contrary, the United States Congress, recognizing the need for jury administrators to avoid the burden and inconvenience of duplicate summonses, amended the Social Security Privacy Act to specifically authorize the use of social security numbers. The federal law includes the following language:

". . . any State . . . may utilize the social security numbers issued by the Commissioner of Social Security for the additional purposes. . . . Identifying duplicate names of individuals on master lists for jury selection purposes. . . ."

To better understand the Judicial Branch’s need for these numbers, some background is helpful. The jury administrator is required by statute to compile a list of jurors that is comprised of names of (1) licensed drivers, (2) state taxpayers, (3) recipients of unemployment and (4) all registered voters. The use of these multiple lists, which was mandated by the state legislature in 1996, has resulted in a pool of names that numbers 6.2 million – nearly twice the size of the population of the state of Connecticut. Obviously, a list of that size includes duplicate names. The use of social security numbers is essential to help us eliminate instances of duplicate summonses.

Duplicate summonses are costly and inconvenient to both the state and the individuals summoned and they result in wasted resources. For the individuals who are summoned, it is an inconvenience to notify jury administration to have the second (or third) summons cancelled. To make matters worse, many don’t realize that they have received a separate summons and assume the additional mailing is for the same date. Failure to respond to an additional summons results in the issuance of a ticket for an infraction that carries a $90 fine. Multiple summonses cost extra tax dollars for unnecessary postage, handling, printing and sorting. They also take up the time and resources of the jury staff who must respond to inquiries from unhappy citizens who, justifiably, want to know why they have received more than one summons.

The Judicial Branch does not release the social security numbers obtained for this purpose to any entity for any reason. Numbers are kept strictly confidential and discarded after use in a manner that ensures continued confidentiality.

The Attorney General, in a letter last year to former Chief Court Administrator Judge Aaron Ment, suggested that this matter be reviewed by the State Legislature. The Judiciary Committee of the Legislature considered this issue during the last legislative session, but did not vote to change the current law.

The Judicial Branch is and has been willing to work with other agencies to formulate alternate methods of verifying the identities of duplicate names appearing on the jury list. Unfortunately, there are no immediate alternatives available. Presently, the use of these numbers is the best method we have at our disposal to avoid the difficulties associated with multiple summonses and is required by law.


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