I read an interesting story about a man who got out of jury duty because of a family vacation, and it got me thinking about the planning of jury duty. The man was able to convince the judge that he could not serve for jury duty because he would "get a divorce" if he was forced to miss his family time.There is a relatively short period of time between receiving your jury summons, and having to show up for jury duty, the amount of time being up to the individual counties. Tex. Gov't Code Ann. §62.016 (b). Many individuals are then faced with a very harsh decision: miss a week of life, or serve your civic duty.
Most of people’s excuses for why they cannot go to jury duty revolve around their busy lives, their busy schedules, and their inability to get everything in order in time. Why do we feel that it is necessary to only give them a couple of weeks of advance notice? There are plenty of different solutions that should be looked at in regards to notice for jury duty. Each possible solution has its own drawbacks, and different advantages. The main issue with allowing jurors more time is fairness.
The main issue with giving jurors longer notice is the increased amount of time for foul play in the legal system. If we are to give prospective jurors more notice, to allow them to get their lives in order and allow them to plan for jury duty, we are also giving the opportunity for juror tampering and increased juror research. However, as mentioned plenty of times by this blog and other articles the poor juror turnout is something that is worth fixing.
The idea of this widespread “jury tampering” seems to be more entrenched in fiction than in fact. Unfortunately, the stories of families having nowhere to send their children, having to miss work, missing out on vacations, and skipping jury service is a very real story. As shown by the committeeon juries there are many problems that the average prospective juror has with the idea of jury service, many of them revolve around convenience.
Currently, the State of Texas allows for the individual jurisdictions to decide how much notice they give their jurors. The statute allows for the judges to “order the drawing of names of prospective jurors for as many weeks in advance as they consider proper and may increase or decrease the number of names drawn for any week.” Tex. Gov't Code Ann. §62.016 (b). If there was a more uniform amount of time, that was measured in months rather than weeks, we would be able to see many more people carve out time in their schedules and plan around the situation.