Sunday, November 26, 2006

Jury Duty: Your civic obligation. Unless?

Recently my number came up once more to serve jury duty. I am more than willing to participate in my obligation but have yet to ever make it past the jury box. And I have had many chances. I was disturbed by one of the questions that came up on the questionnaire though. I was asked to state whether I was being paid by my employer to serve jury duty. Why does that need to be put on the questionnaire? Is it part of the qualification for prospective juror's? Everyone in Humboldt County should be available to serve without predudice of their economic position. Employers are held to a standard well defined by Federal Government if their employees decide to serve the Armed Services, shouldn't they be held to those same standards for their workers/employees if they are called for jury duty? I observed many prospective jurorers being released for hardships by their employers that were really arbitrary. There needs to be a consistent guideline. What do you all think?


Anonymous said...

I think that when you dig a little deeper, you will find that there is no cause for alarm.

Eric V. Kirk said...

I think the point of the question is to help the judge evaluate any claims of hardship.

Anonymous said...

Also, some employers pay their employees at their regular daily rate for days of jury duty served. The Court system then is not obligated, I believe, to pay the juror the $25 or so per day nominal payment for participating in Jury Duty.

samoasoftball said...

I am paid for 8 hours even though I work twelve hour shifts. I lose a substantial amount. But there are alot of people who it hurts worse, and those are the people who are not compensated.

Anonymous said...

The legal system is seriously flawed, and I do not consider it my civic duty to serve on a jury. I do not consider many of the criminals on trial to be my peers. Also, I am self employed, and I am a "one-man show". If I am away from work for an extended period of time, there is no one to cover for me. My clients depend on a quick turnaround time for the work that they hire me for, and if I get stuck in a prolonged jury trial of two weeks or more, not only will I lose hundreds or even thousands of dollars, I will lose repeat business because I will not be meeting my clients expectations.
However, according to the County of Humboldt, I do not meet the requirement for financial hardship. Therefore, I just keep sending the form back with the box checked that I am unavailable for jury duty within the next 90 days. I also think it is unfair that if you are not registered to vote or own a car registered through the DMV, you do not get a notice to appear for jury duty. Not much of an incentive to register to vote, is it?

samoasoftball said...

11:33am-Those are good points. Maybe we need to look further into the criteria for being forced into jury duty. It does not make good sense to penalize a person for registering to vote. But I have heard enough people using the jury duty excuse not to register that there is a problem out there.

mrsb814 said...

Someone from the union came by my house this year to say that only 13% of licensed daycare providers are registered to vote. Dragging 6 toddlers or 4 infants along to jury duty got me off for many years. After I retired and was available-no notices even.

Eric V. Kirk said...

anon 11:33 - So if you are exempt from juries, then shouldn't everybody be? Do you really want to live in a society where criminal justice is dealth out by elites?

Also, I believe now anybody who has a driver's license is on the list. I don't know if they use the voter rolls anymore.

Anon 1:27 - I think it's 15 a day, plus 32 cents per mile. And lunch when you're deliberating.

Anonymous said...

Eric V. Kirk said...
anon 11:33 - So if you are exempt from juries, then shouldn't everybody be? Do you really want to live in a society where criminal justice is dealth out by elites?

Eric, you missed my first point! The system is flawed, and most of you attorneys and judges are just milking the system to drag things out and make more money.

Yes Eric, everyone should be exempt, even you. Jury duty should be voluntary, or else it should pay enough not to create financial hardship. There are enough retired baby boomers, underemployed, or unemployed people to fill up that jury box without having to drag working people away from their jobs.

Besides, the system is already elitist. Those that have money for high powered attorneys are set free (i.e. O.J.) while those who can't afford them lose their cases.

Anonymous said...

While I understand and sympathize with the various comments here, this is one area of my expertise where I hold pretty strong opinions.

1. I think it is everyone's civic duty to serve jury duty. It is one of the hallmarks that separate us as a working democracy (OK, a republic) and a free society.

2. California has a one-day-one-trial statute that means you have to serve one day only ... if you're not picked, you're off the hook.

3. Humboldt County has a 1/2 day service practice that in most cases allows jurors when they are actually picked for a trial to serve in the morning only and get the afternoon off to go back to work or tend to one's family.

All of these things combined make jury duty no real hardship and a reasonable intrusion on one's private life considering the tradeoff (of supporting a justice system that protects the right of individuals).

stepping off of soapbox

Chris Crawford

Eric V. Kirk said...

PS I do believe that the other places will remain open, but if 5 people lose jobs at smaller stores then that will offset by the addition at the new one.

Common misperception - we don't make money on jury trials. We try them so that the insurance companies know we're serious. We make money when we settle cases. Trying cases is not cost-efficient even if we win, unless you're talking a huge judgment which is actually quite rare. And judges make the same amount of money whether they're presiding over trials or not.

But I agree that jurors should be paid a living wage for their time.

I agree that the system isn't fair, but public defenders do sometimes get their clients free, and not all rich folk get off. OJ has Mark Furman and the Lt. who carried the blood samples all over town (Van Adder was it?) to thank more than his attorneys.

I will never be on a jury. I'm not exempt, but one or both attorneys in any case is going to strike me from the pool. I'd only want an attorney on my juror if I was making a counter-intuitive argument requiring a nuanced understanding of the law, but I'm sure my opponent would strike him/her.

Eric V. Kirk said...

3. Humboldt County has a 1/2 day service practice that in most cases allows jurors when they are actually picked for a trial to serve in the morning only and get the afternoon off to go back to work or tend to one's family.

Only for criminal trials. Civil trials go all day, but aren't heard on Fridays. And as to the hardship, it's a tradeoff as the shorter hours mean longer trials. For attorneys who don't have offices in Eureka, the half-day schedule is a pain in the ass.

Fred said...

Eric wrote, "but I'm sure my opponent would strike him/her.".

If they're able to.

I was in the jury pool, some years ago, alongside a probation officer I used to work with. He was still with the Probation Dept. Why he was even on the jury pool to begin with, I'll never know, as law enforcement and corrections personnel are routinely made exempt.

Anyway, we were sitting together in the court room, both of us agreeing he'd be let go if they called him to the jury box.

They finally called his name. He turned to me and whispered, "I'm outta here".

He goes up to the jury box and I don't think they even asked him any questions. If memory serves me correct, the judge asked the jury to stand and be sworn in.

What a surprise. You should of seen the look on his face.

I ran into him some time later and asked him what happened with him being stuck on the jury. He said both the prosecution and defense had used up all their preemptory(?) challenges, so they couldn't challenge any more jurors and he got stuck.

He ended up being the jury foreman, as well.

Anonymous said...

Jury Duty, like taxes, are the price we pay for Civilization.

Anonymous said...

And we truly live in an elitist society, as the rich corporations through lobbying for favorable legislation pay little or no taxes, while the common man gets gouged and has to do jury duty.

Eric V. Kirk said...

Fred - Each attorney has the right to move to strike a potential juror for cause. If the judge refuses, you still have your peremptory exclusions - which means that each side has the right to knock off a certain number of potential jurors. Either you use them up, or you "pass" and if every party passes in a given round you've got your jury. In civil cases we're given 6. In criminal cases 10. Of course, you try not to use your last one unless you have somebody you just absolutely can't abide by, because you don't know what you're going to get once you've used up your peremptories.

Anonymous said...

When I didn't want to serve on Jury Duty, I took a San Francisco newspaper and read it. I was dismissed.

When I wanted to serve on Jury Duty, I didn't bring a newspaper. I just kept giving reassuring looks to the prosecutor when the defense attorney wasn't looking and to the defense attorney when the prosecutor wasn't looking. It worked like a charm. I was selected.

Anonymous said...

Applied psychology.

Anonymous said...