The Citizens Jury process was developed by political scientist Ned Crosby in 1971 while writing a doctoral dissertation on social ethics. His original aim was to create a process that would enhance reason and empathy among citizens as they discussed a public policy matter or evaluated candidates. In 1974, Crosby founded the Jefferson Center to refine the Citizens Jury and develop similar democratic processes.
From 1974 to 1983, the basics of the Citizens Jury process were continuously tested and refined. During that time Crosby worked alone or with a small part time staff.
In the 1980s, the Center saw a growth in the use of Citizens Juries to evaluate policy issues. These projects included an evaluation on the impact of water quality (conducted for a sponsoring group of eleven Minnesota state agencies and nonprofit organizations).
The 1990s were an extremely active decade for the Center, with 22 Citizens Juries conducted on a diverse array of topics. This frequency helped popularize the Citizens Jury in the United States and abroad.
The first decade of the new millennium witnessed fewer Citizens Juries, as Crosby focused on developing the Citizens Initiative Review in Oregon.
The beginning of the 2010s saw Ned Crosby take a small step away from the Jefferson Center to pursue other interests. The Jefferson Center pushes forward under new executive leadership. Crosby remains on the Board of Directors.