Dear Juror (the letter begins),
Thank you for taking the time to fulfill this important civic responsibility.
Let’s dissect this first sentence in my recent summons to jury duty.
First, “for taking the time.” I’m not taking the time – you, the court system, are taking it from me. I’m not volunteering for this; you are demanding that I appear, or suffer possible consequences “pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 209,” which threatens me with being “placed in custody and/or fined.”
Second, “important.” Maybe important to you, the court system, but not to me.
Third, “civic responsibility.” Who decided that jury duty is my civic responsibility? Paying taxes – that’s my civic responsibility. Obeying traffic signals – that’s my civic responsibility. But jury duty? No.
You, the court system, without consulting the taxpaying citizens, decided that jury duty is we, the people’s, civic responsibility because you couldn’t get anyone to volunteer for jury duty. You said, “Ah! We’ll call it ‘civic responsibility’ and brainwash people into doing this onerous thing. And if they resist, we’ll arrest and/or fine them.”
Here’s how it works where I live. I show up at the designated place at the appointed time. Many other people have done the same. We’re all herded into a large room and the first thing I notice is, it’s cold. When one of the herded comments to one of the court staff about the temperature, the response is, “We have no control over this.”
Oh, really? You have control over me, but not the temperature in this room? I’ll bet you have control over the temperature in the court room, if the judge says it’s too cold. I’ll bet you have control over the temperature in the judge’s chambers. I’ll bet you have control over the temperature in the judge’s bathroom.
But no control for the huddled masses yearning to be warm, who don’t want to be here in the first place?
Now let’s talk about wasted time.
There are 134 schlemiels in the jury assembly room including me, and not including court staff. For every one hour that ticks by, that’s 134 hours of unproductive time. On that day we were stuck there for five hours, so five hours X 134 people = 670 hours. Divide that by a 40-hour work week and it’s 16.75 weeks’ worth of wasted time.
That’s more than a month of wasted time.
Oh, sure, there are a few fools tapping away on their laptops, but they aren’t being productive. We’re freezing, remember? And worrying about what’s not getting done at work. And/or who’s going to pick up the kids from school. And/or the appointment to get the furnace fixed that you had to cancel because you had show up for jury duty.
Plus we’re bored.
None of us is getting paid for showing up on this first day. If I do get seated on a jury and the case goes to trial, I’ll be reimbursed the princely sum of $15 a day, plus mileage. But get this: The mileage is one-way only. Now, where is the logic in one-way mileage? Did those powers-that-be who came up with this plan decide, “We’ll pay people mileage to show up, but not to leave – whether or not they leave isn’t our business”?
And suppose my employer is one of the many who don’t pay people who are forced to serve on a jury? In my state, “employers are not required by law to compensate employees on jury duty.” So if I want out, I can “fill in item #10 in the Request for Excuse section…and describe in detail how jury service will cause extreme financial hardship.”
Seriously? What part of I’m not getting paid don’t you understand?
Our jury selection system sucks.
Wiser heads than mine – and there are many of them – argue in favor of full-time jurors, and I agree.
They’d be professionals, just like judges and lawyers are professionals. They’d be trained in understanding laws and court systems. They’d show up for jury duty because it’s their job, not because they’re threatened with arrest and/or a fine. They wouldn’t be sitting in a jury box distracted by what they’re missing at work because they’re at work.
|Professional jurors vs…||What we have now|
Professional jurors want to be there. They’re interested in the process and in being part of the solution. They’re familiar with the law, so before deliberation begins, when the judge gives instructions, they understand what the judge is saying instead of hearing what the rest of us hear: “Blah, blah, blah, now that you have heard all the evidence, blah, blah, blah, do not discuss this case, blah, blah, blah.”
There are those who argue, “But Constitution says you have to serve on a jury!” Wrong. Article III, Section 2 states, “The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury.” The Sixth Amendment adds, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury…”
Nothing about how juries are selected.
Nothing about forcing us under threat of arrest and/or a fine.
Nothing about depriving us of our income.
Nothing about one-way mileage.
And nothing about freezing our asses off.