The Importance of Jury Duty
Jury duty is an obligation of citizenship. Just like paying your taxes or voting, jury duty is an essential part of maintaining the civic infrastructure most of us take for granted. We all have the right to be tried by our peers and the jury system is the best system yet devised; the one most likely to yield just, fair results. Jury service is not perfect but it is meaningful work and one of the best in the world. If jury duty was not mandatory there would be no jurors or at-most very few. It seems to the average American, nothing is seemingly more disliked than receiving a jury summons in the mail. The list seems endless of what people believe they are going to miss or the hardship they will suffer if they have to report to jury duty. As inconvenient as it may seem, jury duty is important for you and is in place to protect you from governmental abuse. It is a common misconception that jury duty is about deciding guilt. The jury system was first formed as a place for review of the law and how it is applied to everyone. There are circumstances in which the law is unjust and it is your duty as a juror to represent the opinion of the people. The next time you think about being inconvenienced by reporting to jury duty, remember that other than voting, acting as a juror is really your only other civic responsibility in this country. In other words, all the work done by the founding fathers, and all the actions of those who fought bravely or died on behalf of this country’s democratic institutions, resulted in a set of freedoms for citizens of this country not seen in other parts of the world. And, after all the sacrifice of those that came before you to ensure that each of us has the right to life, liberty and happiness, all your government really asks of you in return is to vote and show up for jury duty.
Thomas Jefferson once said “I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” As a trial lawyer I stand by Thomas Jefferson’s quote. I can’t think of anything more important to my clients than the right to have their cases, whether personal injury or any kind of case, decided by a jury. And even though jury duty does take some amount of time away from what your daily routines would have been, almost every judge I have been in front of has been very sensitive to those facts. While there is no one standard rule as to how long jury service is, one thing is clear, if you sit on a civil or criminal jury, and reach a verdict, you are done.
So the next time you get that jury summons, sure it may be an inconvenience, but at the end of the process, you, like so many before you, will have made a huge commitment to our democratic system of government, you will have made a huge difference in resolving a controversy. That small burden is a small price to pay for the privileges and protections of our government. With rights, come responsibilities. Jurors owe it to their fellow citizens to perform this service seriously; justice depends all on the quality of jurors who serve. The survival of your own right to trial by jury depends on the willingness of all to serve, so be part of the system and make a difference.