How to Avoid Jury Duty
Seriously? Why? If you are trying to avoid jury duty, I urge you to keep reading and reconsider your intention. As citizens of the USA, we can fulfill civic duties in three important ways: serving in the military, voting, and serving on a jury.
Not long ago, the military drafted young men to serve in the Vietnam War. Many made the ultimate “civic” sacrifice on behalf of our nation and many more bear the physical and emotional scars from that experience. Today, we are fortunate to have many honorable men and women who serve our military to protect our right to vote and the right to a trial by jury.
In many countries, citizens are required to vote. In the USA, we are not required to vote, but we should. If you choose not to vote, then you forego an important civic duty at your own peril. More importantly, it would be a shame to squander such a precious right, especially since so many have fought and died to protect it.
When it comes to jury duty, we don’t have a choice. That’s because we are “summoned” by the Courts to report for jury duty. The piece of mail we receive summoning us to report for jury duty is not a party invitation we can casually disregard. The summons is a legal document, which if ignored, has legal implications to you. More importantly, that summons is a product of our Constitutional right to a trial by jury. For the origin of the right to trial by jury, see my article entitled “What is the Seventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution?”
To truly understand how important it is for us to honor the civic duty to report for jury duty, consider the compelling and eloquent words of the late Judge Arthur J. Franza. Judge Franza, was a Broward County Circuit Judge. He was born on December 3, 1922 and died on March 2, 1999. He had a natural way with people, especially those who reported for jury duty in his courtroom. Judge Franza served the public in active and retired status for four decades, from the 60’s to the 90’s. Because of his extensive experience in presiding over hundreds of jury trial, he understood the beauty of the jury trial and knew how to communicate the important role of the jury to the folks who dutifully reported for service.
Judge Franza’s comments provide insight and appreciation of the important role jurors play in ensuring our Constitutional right to a trial by jury. We uploaded a link of Judge Franza’s comments to a prospective group of jurors. It is on our firm’s YouTube channel; SearcyLaw.
Watch it and listen to some of the terms and phrases Judge Franza uses to emphasize why it is important to report for jury duty, including:
“You’re here because of our Constitution, which I call a once upon a mankind kind of doctrine. It’s the first time that we know of, that a people got together, sat down and figured out how they would be governed. And one of those tenets of that Constitution is that everybody has a right of access to the Court system: plaintiffs and defendants. And they have a right to a jury of their peers: that’s You, not me. A jury of their peers. And as you can see this morning, many of you were called. We have 34 courtrooms in this courthouse. We have hundreds of courtrooms across the state, and thousands across the country, with people like you, doing what you are doing today or tomorrow or whenever this case ends. And that is, resolving disputes between people and people, people and companies, people and government, government and government, that they can’t resolve themselves. And rather than go outside and, you know, shoot it out or fight it out, they come in to court: a place of reason, a place of civility, where people like you use your common sense, your life experiences, your dedication to the facts of the case as you hear it and your application of the law, as I instruct you the law is. And you make a decision and we live by it. The system lives with it.
He continues and adds, with respect to our system of justice:
“. . . The best system that man has evolved. Some people may not like it, but no one has come up with anything better.”
With respect to the juror’s job, he could not be more poetic:
“We ask you to search for the truth, to the best of your ability, and reflect it in your verdict. That’s what you’re here for. Now when you do that members of the jury, you kind of touch that Flag on my right, maybe even leave a little bit of yourselves there, so that when your children receive it from you, hopefully they receive it in a stronger and more viable condition then when you received it from your mothers and fathers.”
“When you reach your verdict, we accept it. And you know, this week or this month or these 2 months, however long it takes, you are going to be that Constitution that we talk about: you are going to walk it, talk it, breathe it and act it out. You are going to be it. You’re the ones that make the decision, not me, not the attorneys, not the parties, You – You. Each one of you who are chosen. And it’s an awesome responsibility, but you’ll have 5 other people in there to work with you, to talk with you and to guide you here and there. You exchange your views and you’ll be surprised, when you get done masticating, if you will, the facts and the law, you do come out, as I said before, with the right decision. So that’s what you have to do.”
Our nation’s founding fathers sacrificed much to establish a country by the people and for the people, and serving on a jury is a living testament to that that idea. When we fulfill a civic duty, we live the Constitution, and we all have an obligation to preserve it by responding when we are summoned to serve. Otherwise, our Constitution is nothing more than words on paper.