Serving jury duty,
a civic responsibility
February 06, 2008
When I opened my summons letter for jury duty I thought, "You've got to be kidding me, this is the last thing I need right now. I'd rather suffer from rope burns. After all, I'm a busy fella, I really don't need to be spending my time in some court office or courtroom listening to someone else's problem! For goodness sakes I've got my own problems.
"I gotta find a way out of this!" So I wrote the judge a note, telling him how important I was to this newspaper, explaining I do most of the layout for the paper and help make day-to-day decisions for the newspaper. Surely he'd understand.
Judge Mike Higgins responded, "Your request to be dismissed from jury duty has been denied!"
Okay, it is my responsibility as a citizen, after all. Clearer thoughts prevailed and I shouldn't be so selfish of my time. Besides, what are the chances of the lawyers selecting me to serve as a juror? I thought, "Once they find out I'm in the newspaper business, I'll be dismissed."
So there we sat, the chosen few prospective jurors, awaiting selection and or a quick release. I daresay, few were looking forward to serving. Among all the duties entailed in enjoying the benefits of citizenship, jury duty is one of the most universally disliked. To my surprise, a startling number of citizens I sat with that morning went to great and obvious lengths to dodge such service.
I was a shamed. Young men have died fighting to defend this form of judicial practice. And yes, it is an inconvenience to our normal lifestyle and work week, but it is still the very best system in the world.
Unexpectedly, I was selected as a juror for trial.
Really, it wasn't so bad. I decided to accept it, listen, learn and pass on a fair judgment. That is, what I would hope others would do for me if I were on the other side of the jurors' box.
I saw and experienced the high level of professionalism, respect and dedication all the key players, from the lawyers to the judge, had for our system of law. I gained a renewed faith in our judicial system.
Shamefully, I suspect there are many jury duty evaders. I attempted and was tempted to be one myself. After serving, I look at the entire process far differently. I'm told some residents who receive jury summons ignore them entirely despite the consequences. Not only do they not show up for the weekly cattle-call ordeal of jury selection, they don't even contact officials to offer an excuse. They simply look the other way.
Dodging jury duty is not just a show of shallow selfishness, it is a threat to the justice system itself. At the heart of the matter is the fact that jury service is a crucial duty that goes with citizenship.
I'm glad I had the opportunity to serve and participate in my duty as a citizen.
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