The Dog Ate My Jury Summons... How to Fix The System

The Christian Science Monitor has a great story today about the demise of the jury system resulting in jury no-show rates approaching 90 percent (in Miami). The gist of the piece is that more and more people are ignoring jury summonses when they get them. The other gist of the piece is that officials in some places are getting downright creative, and not just a little sucessful, in getting jurors to show up, sober and on time.

In Massachusetts, reports Patrik Jonsson, state officials "ran an educational campaign about the jury system and regularly pursues delinquent jurors. The state has cut its no-show rate in half since 1996, from 14 percent to six percent." A Nebraska county, Jonsson tells us, "plans to introduce an e-Jury program using the Internet that aims to be more juror-friendly. It allows people to go online to request deferrals or provide reasons why they're unable to serve." Other states, like Georgia, are focusing upon tough rules that will make jurors rue the day that they blow off service.

Now, I'm assuming that all of you, at one time or another, have received a jury summons. So let me ask you, and poll you, about ways in which YOU think we can improve the jury system in your neck of woods. Send me a list of a few things and I will post them in a subsequent column. Here are a few of my suggestions:

1. Televisions in jury waiting rooms, so that potential jurors can while away the hours without having to read a book. Oh, and cable would be nice for those great afternoon AMC movies.

2. More advanced pre-screening work through jury questionnaires so that obviously unacceptable jurors don't have to show up and waste space.

3. Jurors should be allowed to notify court officials of dates in month during which they are available for jury duty. That way they have no excuse when they are called to court.

4. Jurors who repeatedly refuse to serve should face significant fines or the suspension of their drivers' license, if they have one.

5. Every 1,000th juror gets a free trial.

By Andrew Cohen |  October 17, 2006; 7:00 AM ET
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Posted by: Mike | October 17, 2006 02:05 PM

In my hometown, Baton Rouge, the building where trials take place is adjacent to the downtown branch of the local public library. People called for jury duty can wait in the library, read books, use the computers . . . It's a very pleasant place to spend time before you're called in with the rest of the members of your jury pool.

Posted by: Richard | October 17, 2006 04:16 PM

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