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Making Jury Duty More Appealing

Apparently, jury duty is desperately in need of some good PR -- perhaps a snappy public service announcement on YouTube. According to this article, How to Corral Twelve Not So Angry Jurors from the Christian Science Monitor (10/17/06):

The number of people not responding to a jury summons has become so acute that it has prompted judicial groups to investigate. Outdated juror lists, rundown jury rooms that feel like jails, and  growing time pressures on Americans are mostly to blame, their research has found. Nationally, there's a 20 percent no-show rate, according to the American Judicature Society. In some cities such  as Miami, the rate is as high as 90 percent. The "no-show rate across the country is staggeringly high," says political scientist Jeffrey Abramson, author of "We the Jury: The jury system and the ideal democracy."

The article reports on some of the measures that states have been taking to make jury service less onerous, such as one-day/one-trial systems, where jurors do not have to wait on call for days to serve; renovating jury areas to make them roomier; installing business centers so that professionals can keep in touch with their colleagues while they wait; and implementing online systems so that people can request deferrals.

Andrew Cohen of the Washington Post's Bench Conference Blog has some other ideas. They include television in the waiting rooms, more advanced pre-screening work through jury questionnaires, a procedure for jurors to notify court officials of dates during which they are available for jury duty, and consequences, such as suspension of a driver's license for failure to serve.

Back when I handled court-appointed criminal work in the D.C. courts, what always surprised me was the aversion that other lawyers had to serving on a jury. I remember seeing attorneys from large firms or some of the federal agencies who were selected for juries who looked disgruntled or perturbed at having been picked. I can certainly understand why members of the public wouldn't want to be called for jury duty, particularly those who lose pay by taking off from work. But why wouldn't a lawyer want to be called for jury duty? I can't think of better CLE than that.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on October 18, 2006 at 04:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)


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