Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Jury Duty No-Shows

From 2012 05 Dallas

Editorial writer Jim Mitchell of The Dallas Morning News says that jury duty no-shows are a problem with no solution. He says less than 20% of the residents of Dallas County who are summoned for jury duty actually show up. Based on my recent experience, that sounds about right. Assuming the juror numbers are sequentially assigned based on summonses, 277 people had to be summoned to create a 42 person jury pool for the trial I was called for last week.

After the jump, why it's a problem.

Mitchell says:
You'll find that most states have this problem, which in some instances strikes at the heart of the jury system. No jurors=unbalanced jury pools. That's another way of saying diversity and juries of peers will take a hit.

I wish Mitchell had done a little more digging to determine if this is really true. Maybe the no-shows are roughly distributed the same as the racial and socio-economic demographics of the population at large. Maybe not. Mitchell doesn't say. Maybe he doesn't know.

I served. I gave up five days of my time. So did eleven of my fellow citizens. It was as diverse a group as any I'm in general contact with in other arenas of public life. More importantly, it was a group of citizens who took the responsibility seriously.

I'm willing to believe that "the poor saps who believe in the system get called more often," as Mitchell puts it, but do we really want more people who don't believe in the trial-by-jury system serving on juries? Not if we want justice, I contend.

If we're just trying to make those jury summonses show up in my mailbox less frequently, then, fine, crack down on the no-shows. But if it's justice we're after, I'm willing to leave things alone. Based on my personal experience, the system is working.

1 comment:

glbeach said...

Cracking down on jury summons scofflaws will not address the underlying, fundamental issues or root cause. I'm inclined to believe the root cause is simply a lack of voluntary involvement in civil and civic society - be it in juries as required by law - or be it in volunteering in schools or simply exercising the right to vote. So to my mind the real question is how do you insert in people's mind the precept that life is better and more full when you serve others?