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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Jury Duty

Is mandatory jury duty unfair and ineffective and should it be abolished?

        Jury duty can be a hassle.  Idealistically speaking I suppose it is a noble concept.  Serving one's country and community is a great thing and I certainly admire most of those who do this. However situations are not always equal for everybody and carrying out a noble cause may not be the easiest thing for some.

         Firstly, I will consider the question from my own experience and that of others who may be in my position.  For many years I managed a business and often did not have employees who were especially capable of running things at the business if I were gone for long periods.  They were good employees for what they were hired to do, but lacking in other areas.  I normally did not like to leave for more than a few hours.  The financial situation precluded hiring upper echelon staff as regular employees and we did not have many long term employees.  My absence from my business because of jury duty created a difficult operational circumstance for my business.

        Also, for many years, I needed to be available to take kids to school and pick them up afterwards.  If I would have had to perform jury service, I would have had to find other arrangements for my children, which was not always an easy thing for me to do.

        And when I was working I really did not want to serve on the jury.  Even now that I am unemployed, I am not overly interested in going to sit in the courthouse and wait to see if I will be called to be screened for a jury.  At this point in my life I am certainly in a better position to serve on a jury, but I am basically ambivalent about doing so.  If I could go in to be guaranteed a place on a jury with minimal waiting then it might not be too bad, but to go in and sit for several hours only to be dismissed is a waste of my time and gasoline.  Besides, they say the person on trial is entitled to a trial by a jury of their peers--well, excuse me, but I often don't consider that person on trial my peer.

         Forgive me if I sound somewhat disgruntled, but really I don't even have complete faith in the judicial system.  And they want to pay me fifteen dollars a day to go watch some overpaid lawyers and judges play justice?  They are expecting working people in private business, where time is a valuable commodity, and lower income people, who are under the duress of their circumstances and who may have to take public transportation, to go serve on a jury.  I just don't totally agree with that.

          So here's my suggested plan:  Make jury duty voluntary for anyone who is not working for the government or supported by the government.  The mandatory service pool would consist of people who work for the government, people on welfare who are able to serve, all lawyers and employees of legal firms, retired judges, and anyone who is fulfilling an obligation for community service as mandated by the court.  Also, the pool could consist of parolees and certain low risk prisoners--now those would be peers for some of those on trial. This group would have be trained and be under strict control.  This last group may sound absurd to some, but I think this would be providing them some real insight in their quest for rehabilitation and an opportunity to be integrated into a system against which they have rebelled.

       Of course, this argument that I've just posed applies to all of us.  Jury duty can be a rewarding experience for all who participate and we should all want to be a part of that.  But I just don't think the reluctant juror is a fair component to the procedure and could be a detriment to the person on trial.  Judging from some of the bizarre decisions our court system has come up with makes me question the integrity of some of the juries.  The jury selection process often seems like an absurd method of procuring a skewed jury, which to me is an argument for a professional jury system.  This could be expensive though and probably impractical.

         There are undoubtedly many creative and highly workable options that could be put into practice that are better than the present system.  Can you think of a better way to approach reaching judicial decisions?  Do you think mandatory jury service is a good idea?  If you have served on a jury before what was your experience like and what did you learn from it?


  1. Interesting thoughts!

    I did have jury duty a year ago, but was dismissed. The defense lawyer wasn't wild about a mystery writer on a jury. :)

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  2. I have never served on a jury, my late husband did and found it interesting, but it is a great responsibility to determine whether someone is guilty or innocent . If it was a high profile murder investigation or another well known crime I don't think I would want to serve on a jury ,but that's me personally.

    Lee thanks for your visit and lovely comment it meant alot to me.

    Take care and have a grand day.


  3. Have luckily never had to be called for jury dut *knock on wood* I suppose its to each their own, sometimes I think it's a great idea, and that I would love to help out, and then others I think it could be a waste...

  4. I have only been called twice. The first time I served I really enjoyed the process. A young girl was charged with vandalism. We, the jury felt she was guilty, but we also believed the prosecutor did not present sufficient evidence. Even though we thought she had probably done it, we voted not guilty.

    The second time I spent three days waiting and was never called.

    I think the folks who should serve usually get out of it, since it is so easy. I am afraid of the "pool" that is usually fished for juries today. Quite frankly, it would scare me to death to be judged my a jury of my peers.

    The sense of justice today is so skewed that justice is usually the last thing that is done.

    Should we abolish it? No. Does the process needed overhauled? Yes. Will it be overhauled? More than likely not.

  5. >>[the pool could consist of parolees and certain low risk prisoners--now those would be peers for some of those on trial.]<<
    - - -
    >>[I just don't think the reluctant juror is a fair component to the procedure and could be a detriment to the person on trial.]<<

    In general, the "reluctant juror" would certainly be less of a "detriment to the person on trial" than the "parolees and certain low risk prisoners", relishing an opportunity to pay back the system, would be a detriment to justice.

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McMe

  6. Interesting post!

    I've only been selected for jury duty once. Sitting for four hours waiting, then to be abruptly released does seem like a waste.

    Only God knows...

  7. Elizabeth -- that's a hoot! A mystery writer on the jury? Yeah, maybe you'd be too analytical and actually figure out who done it.

    Yvonne --I do think it would be interesting to serve on a jury. But to be on a complicated case that might take several days could be a hindrance to some people's lives.

    Jen -- I am of mixed feelings like you.

    Gregg -- You have stated it very well --I agree with what you have said.

    Stephen -- I think you are underestimating some of those folks who have been incarcerated or have been recipients of justice. Many of them are quite intelligent and would be quite eager to actually serve productively in the process. In fact, I think many of them would be less vindictive than some of the angry citizens who don't really want to be there. And for the trials of the really bad guys who we know are guity anyway, we could have courtrooms right in the prisons with trained juries of prisoners. When the guy is convicted, he could just be led to his cell with no holding and no transportation. Convicts who are screened and trained in the process might have a lot of incentive to exact justice if it meant some kind of advantage to them.

    Tamika --yeah, that's what I'm saying.

  8. Only had to do it once and fortunately I was dismissed.
    I wouldn't even know where to begin to fix it, though.

  9. I've always wondered - if the judge is the final decision and the expert, why the heck do we need a jury?

  10. I've actually never done jury duty before.

  11. Sorry, Brother, but you have miles and miles to go before you'll ever get me to buy into that theory.

    In fact, I have so many differences of opinion with this particular post that it would take too much time to go through it point by point and voice my concerns.

    This is just one of those rare times when we're going to have to agree to disagree.

    I concur that the system has some problems but...

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McMe

  12. I was called for jury duty when I was no longer living in the state. It was very difficult to "get out of it." In fact, I think that I may never be able to run for a political office as a result (not that I am planning on doing that anyway).

    My problem is not necessarily with jury duty itself; my problem is with the process of selection. They want people who are completely unbiased, and many of us have our own biases. I heard that if you say you are a university professor, you might automatically be dismissed because you are considered to be too liberal.

    Lastly, if they are going to make you take the day off (or days), they should be better about providing services to help you deal with missing work or picking up your kids from school.

    Okay, those were my two cents!

  13. It is especially difficult if one is a homeschool parent.

    Many people I know want to serve on a jury though if they are able. They see it as a privilige. : )

    Thanks for your comment on the Fighting Sullivans! When the screen went blank when the four brothers were helping their fifth wounded brother it was quite a shock. I thought, "No, this could not be." I had no idea...

    We enjoyed watching their lives as they grew up, so sweet.


  14. I recently was called to jury duty for the first time. I had to make extensive lesson plans for my students at the end of a grading quarter which meant I had to go back into school at night to take care of grades. We were paid nine dollars a day which I had to give to my employer. No coffee, old fashion uncomfortable wooden chairs, complete chaos and disorganization and one small over-priced cafeteria for lunch. Being forewarned I packed lunch. I was dismissed after one day and I was thrilled as the eight hours I spent in the jury pool were the most boring of my entire life and the chairs were too uncomfortable to sleep in.
    I know some states do it better than PA. They really need to update and think of changing some things.

  15. We should think about “professionalizing” juries — at least in the civil arena?

    This would give full time employment to a segment of the population and let a large number of working citizens that hate jury duty
    stay on the job. Being a juror would be just like any other job.

    I'm not sure if a professional jury would be a good idea for criminal trails.

  16. Thanks for your insights Alex, WW, Spunky, Ameilia

    Diana -- And I think the selection process is inconsistent depending upon the case, the attorneys, and the agenda (could there be an agenda in cases?)

    Susan - I guess my two experiences weren't so bad -- yours sounds grueling.

    Old Geezer -- I agree with professionalizing juries. And actually may not be so bad with criminal trials as the pros would know more about what to look for.

    Stephen -- you have insulted upstanding criminals everywhere-- er, criminals with good intentions-- um, no -- ah never mind.

  17. I don't think too many people would be volunteering for roll call!

    A friend of mine served on a jury last month. They were sequestered for the evening - without TV or telephones. Didn't get to see the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics. And he missed out on a job interview because he was still sequestered on Saturday morning!

  18. Wow ...I love your theme and concept..I just started this and am so glad you've followed...i just had an idea for something you did..! Im going to be reading up on yours to catch up..Thanks Again!!..Oh and I am the worlds most questioning person that I know so far..maybe you are more..LOL..!
    As for the jury duty..I agree with you 100%...My husband just got called last year to go to a district 2 hours away...2 trains and a subway...At least let us serve in our own community..The system needs an overhaul just like the rest of govt...

  19. Very interesting post! I've never been called for jury duty *knock on wood*. I'm not sure how I would respond to such a responsibility!

    Also Lee, I gave you the "Circle of Friends" award on my blog! Surf on over and check it out! :)


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