KYW Exclusive: Potential Philly jurors threatened with jail for ignoring summons they never received

Pat Loeb
September 30, 2019 - 7:56 pm

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Philadelphia court officials are apologizing for a blunder that resulted in hundreds of prospective jurors receiving a threatening postcard about ignoring a jury summons — even though they never received a summons in the first place — as first reported by KYW Newsradio.

The Philadelphia court system employs an outside vendor to mail about 46,000 jury summonses a month. About one-third of them either receive no response or are returned by the post office, which prompts a second round of mailings. But since that lump is much smaller, the court system sends out those mailings itself.

A court spokesman said the vendor noticed a great deal of the returned mail came from apartments or condos where the resident's unit number was unknown. So to save money on postage, the vendor decided simply not to send the initial summons to multi-dwelling addresses where there was no unit number. 

Notices like this, which many people received without having received the initial summons, prompted fearful reactions from prospective jurors.
Dave Uram/KYW Newsradio

However, it never told the jury commission what it was doing. So the jury commission sent out the second notice — which threatens a fine and 10 days in jail for contempt of court for failure to appear for jury duty.

The spokesman is not sure how many people received the second notice without receiving the first one, but he said there were dozens of complaints. 

In the future, the spokesman said the vendor will send out all the summonses, with or without a unit number.