A glitch in the D.C. Superior Court's internal jury duty system led to a failure to mail notices to thousands of city residents, forcing court officials to frantically email summonses last week, only days before trials were to start.

Court officials confirmed over the weekend that the computer problem occurred at Christmastime and caused the court to fail to print out and mail the summonses on time. Prospective jurors should have had about a month to prepare for duty.

Because of the error, court officials realized that no jurors were available for trials for the next two weeks and quickly sent out 2,330 emails to tell residents that they had been selected for jury duty beginning Monday. The court normally mails 5,000 jury duty summonses each week.

Leah Gurowitz, a spokeswoman for the court, called the glitch an "oversight" that was noticed last week as court officials began preparing for upcoming trials.

In a statement, she called the delay in sending notices "a one-time" event, saying summonses will be mailed four to six weeks in advance, as before, from now on.

Prospective jurors who alert the court that they are unable to serve during the next two weeks can request a later date, Gurowitz said.

The hiccup came less than a year after the court rolled out a phone system that allows prospective jurors to call in the night before their duty begins to determine whether they are needed, instead of traveling downtown and waiting to find out.

Gurowitz said the court obtained the prospective jurors' email addresses from forms filled out during earlier stints.

The emails went out on Wednesday, causing some prospective jurors to visit the court's third-floor jury office late last week, confused and angry about the short notice, according to three court employees. The court also mailed paper summonses to the email recipients.


The H. Carl Moultrie Courthouse is at 500 Indiana Ave. NW in Washington. (Keith Alexander/TWP)