Eye the Jury !

Despite (perhaps) the apparent punish (ing) title of this article

museum; (c) Buckinghamshire County Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(equally apparently written while very tired late-one-night), this will not in any way concern the 1947 debut novel of American crime-fiction writer, Mickey Spillane; and, the first of his works to feature the notorious Private Investigator, Mike Hammer. No, that was “I, the Jury.” This is just me trying to get your attention.

A guy I know called me late the other night, and having gotten a “Jury Summons,” he asked me if he really had to attend on the date indicated in the Summons. After I almost said, “Duh”; I further replied, “Yeah, unless you want to have the Marshals come and get you; have your driver’s license suspended; have a lien placed on your income tax refunds, and maybe have them confiscated and taken to pay fines that could initially go as high as $1,500.00, for a first offense. Then, there could be the ultimate incarceration for continued failure to obey the Summons; a Jury Summons being a Court Order; the disobedience of which can be found to be a ‘Contempt of Court’; which is crime, if a conviction results from a continued failure to appear.”

All of that aside: it’s without a doubt that Jury Duty can be an enormous and expensive inconvenience. There always appears to be so many other things that need to be done with the days that are required to go down to the court house and wait to see whether there will be an assignment to actually sit on a Jury. Then there is the length of a trial, should one actually be picked for the Jury in an actual case. If one has an employment that “makes room” for Jury Duty; or even pays for it, that’s one thing. But if not, the Court will pay all of $15.00 a day to be there, and .34¢ to travel to and from the court. Then, there’s the waiting.

One thing is clear: it would be actionably improper for an employer to penalize in any way an employee who was called and had to attend any part of Jury Duty.

Time was, that if summoned, one would be “on-call” for 30 days; and of course, longer if picked. Then, they redesigned the system to get rid of some of the tedium and delay; but it seems to have increased some of the other demands.

The new system is popularly called, the “one day, one trial” system. One’s service is complete if one appears for their “one-day,” and they are not called to a court room by the end of that day. If called, a group is sent to a court room while the process is performed to actually pick a Jury that will hear a case.

One thing I would like to make clear: In all of the years I have been a lawyer, it never seems to fail, that the entire experience (and especially if one is actually picked and serves in deliberation on a case) emerges as one of the most impressive, fascinating, memorable and valuable experiences in the life of the one who serves.

That’s probably because of an often unrealized and misunderstood thing about our American Democracy and it’s form of government: When all the Kings horses, and all the Kings men, with all their smarts and authority, can’t put it together to resolve the dispute, they simply call 12 regular people, off the street and otherwise from their regular private lives, into the room, and have them sit there and hear “what the hell happened”; and then, the Judge calls upon them to decide what the resolution should be. It’s a thing of beauty!

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