Jury Summons

Jury Summons

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Defiant Jurors:Citizens dodging Jury Duty

Across the country courts are cracking down on potential jurors trying to escape their "civic duty" of serving on a jury. Jury Commissioner, Daniel Rendine, from Philadelphia stated that potential jurors not showing up has “becom[e] a major problem” for the city. More than a third of all Philadelphia residents that are summoned for duty do not respond. This lack of juror summons response has forced the court to reduce its jury pool. Rendine explained that due to potential jurors not responding to the summons, this has cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars to mail and re-mail multiple summonses to potential jurors who do not respond the first time.

 Recently Judge Minehart of Philadelphia called fifty-two potential jurors who never showed for their jury duty. Out of the fifty-two non-show potential jurors Judge Minehart summoned to his court for their non-compliance of reporting for jury duty, still eighteen people did not report to his court when summoned.These eighteen individuals then had bench warrants issued to have them brought before the court for their defiance. Of the individuals that did appear when summoned to the court for an explanation, most gave frivolous excuses as to why they ignored their original jury summons. Frustrated, Judge Minehart told one of the no-show jurors, “[w]e don’t think you belong on a jury. We don’t want you on jury. We want good citizens on a jury.” Since publicly summoning these fifty-two individuals to the court, there has been an increase in phone calls of people checking to see when they are scheduled for jury duty.

Jurors not showing up for their civic duty has gone a step further in one Michigan court. After the jury had been selected, nine of the jurors selected to serve on the jury did not show for jury duty for the first day of trial. The attorneys were ready, witnesses were there, but the trial could not begin because there was not enough jury members present to hold the trial. Irate, the Judge issued contempt of court charges against the jurors and eight of the nine were given six weeks of community service while one juror who did not answer the contempt of court had a bench warrant issued.

One reason individuals may not be reporting for their jury duty is due the inconvenience of serving on a jury. People are more apt to agree with the idealistic view of the right to have a jury, but find it personally inconvenient when they are asked to take time out of their day and serve their civic duty.  This disconnect may be analogized to the disconnect between the pride American citizens take in our military and the low enlistment rates. Most Americans appreciate the military and find it honorable of those that serve our county; however, many Americans have little to no interest in serving in the military themselves. As of 2011, the United States Department of Defense stated that currently [as of 2011], a smaller percentage of Americans serve in the armed forces than at any time since the peacetime era between World War I and World War II.

Additionally, individuals are not reporting for their jury duty due to the general public having little fear of repercussion for not reporting. Due to the lack of enforcement, individuals joke about how they plan to get out of jury duty and openly discuss how they never reported. However,it has been found that when courts take the time to crack down on individuals who do not report for their jury duty, the number of jury summons answered and/or individuals checking the status of their jury duty tends to improve.

In order to encourage more individuals to serve, allow for better representativeness, and to cut down on court costs of re-sending jury summons the courts should consider enforcing more sanctions for jurors failing to report for their jury duty.Furthermore, if individuals are made aware of the consequences for not reporting for jury duty, they may be more likely to report for jury duty even if they find it inconvenient.

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