I read an article recently about how the local judicial system is suffering from a lack of jurors. Judges said they’re at their wits’ end trying to seat juries. People in the county are mailed questionnaires to be identified as potential jurors. Eighteen percent have failed to answer the questionnaire, and of those who do, many fail to show up to court on the specified date. One judge said he’s been unable to seat juries four times this year–the first time that has happened in 20 years.
I understand people view serving on a jury as an inconvenience. You have to miss work, arrange day care for the kids, sit through technical legal instructions and arguments, wade through evidence and come to a decision that can significantly change people’s lives. It’s a lot of pressure. It can also have significant psychological effects if the case involves a violent crime like rape, murder or kidnapping.
I have to admit that the one time I was called for jury duty, I was released from service. It was right after my brother had died, and I was in the middle of graduating from college and looking for a job. I actually wouldn’t have minded serving, and I tried to tell my father that, but he didn’t think I should have to deal with being on a jury on top of everything else that was going on. He called the court to have me excused, and I didn’t fight him.
Today if I were selected for a jury, I wouldn’t try to get out of it. I think it would be interesting to get a closer look at how the legal system works. I find it shameful that so many people are ignoring their civic duty, and I wouldn’t blame judges for holding no-shows in contempt of court. Serving on a jury isn’t most people’s idea of a good time, but neither are other responsibilities of living in a free country, such as paying taxes and voting. Those are the small prices we pay in return for the many benefits and freedoms we enjoy in the United States. We can’t just arbitrarily decide we won’t pay taxes–and we shouldn’t arbitrarily decide not to serve on jury just because it doesn’t fit with our schedule.
So next time you get that dreaded letter, suck it up and comply with the court. You never know when you’ll need the favor returned.