Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Jury Duty: Just Do It

Kate the Great has a great post recounting her friend's story of a man who walked five miles through the snow to meet his jury duty obligation. Stories like this always make me angry about the middle- and upper-class professionals who would rather gnaw off their own limbs than be picked to sit on a jury.

I'm not implying that everyone--or even most people--tries to shirk their responsibility. But enough do that it's become a stereotype (you might hear someone quip, for instance, about the dubious prospect of trying a case to "twelve people too dumb to get out of jury duty"). A few years ago, I witnessed a fellow attorney candidly admit during voir dire that he had absolutely no desire to serve on a jury, and would very much like to be excused. (Two sidenotes: first, one of the attorneys exercised a peremptory challenge to be rid of him, fearful that his client would be the one on whom the lawyer might take out his frustration. Second, the guy wasn't a litigator: most trial attorneys I know would give anything to see a jury work from inside the jury room.)

So when you get that jury notice, instead of thinking about how much work will pile up for you if you have to be away from your job for a few days or how inconvenient it will be to have to go to the courthouse instead of work or wherever else you'd normally be, think about Kate's friend's companion--the one who walked to the courthouse because he didn't have a couple bucks for bus fare.

One of these days, you may need justice from a jury. Perhaps you'll be accused of a crime, or the victim of a crime. Maybe something bad will happen to you, and you'll need to sue the wrongdoer, or maybe someone will accuse you of being a wrongdoer and sue you. And when you do, you'll want to know that there are some people like you in the jury box. And the only way that happens is if people like you--like YOU--serve on juries.

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