Jury Duty

Attorney Dennis SchaeferAuthor: Attorney Dennis Schaefer

Instead of bemoaning jury duty, consider the fact that someday you might be a litigant in a court case needing a jury to resolve the factual issues of your case. I would expect that you would want people to be in your jury pool and on your jury who wanted to be there. Even if they wanted to be their solely because it is their civic responsibility, and for no other reason. They wanted to be there because it was the “right thing to do”. Even if they wanted to be there because they understood that someday they might need a jury in a case of theirs.

Whenever anyone gets summoned for jury duty, the first thing out of their mouth is, “how do I get out of jury duty?” Of course, there are the good citizens who go to jury duty without complaint. Most other people summoned for jury duty, ultimately go and serve their “time”. Usually this is after attempted plots to escape the serving of jury duty, and the realization it is just easier to serve.

Recently a very high profile case in Palm Beach County produced a very high profile finding of juror misconduct in a criminal case the juror was sworn in to decide. The juror decided to not follow the judge’s very explicit instructions in several areas of being a juror. His failure to follow the judge’s instructions resulted in a reversal of a guilty verdict. It also resulted in a controversial jail sentence for the juror who ignored the courts rules.

The question was raised by several newspaper columnists as to whether the juror’s jail sentence will scare off other jurors. The issue as to why bother to be juror if it could land you in jail has been raised. The reality that not only is jury duty time consuming, but it could be very detrimental has become public and real.

Florida Statute 40.23 states that failure to appear for jury duty can subject you to fine or a contempt of court charge. However, the real issue is our system. Our system needs intelligent, articulate and aware adults to be jurors. Without good and solid citizens as jurors our system becomes less a system of justice and more a crap shoot.

1 comment

Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Judge Gregory P. Holder:

Well said and thank you.

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