Thursday, June 12, 2008

Avoid Jury Service At Your Own Peril

KEYT just ran a story alerting the public that the Santa Barbara Superior Court has just begun to crack down on people who scoff at jury duty even before they show up. Specifically, the Court is seeking to hold people who have failed to respond to postcards ordering them to call in for jury duty in contempt. The fine, depending on the circumstances, may be as much as $350. This young man, above, was interviewed and was asked what he thinks about this. His answer was that it was "unfair" because "it seems the Government is trying to weasel money out of people". I couldn't disagree more. The Government may, in some circumstances, be trying to weasel money from people, but not here. The Government is trying to get people, all people, to take jury service seriously and to show up and participate. The jury system is, by no means, a for-profit enterprise. It is, in fact, a very costly system which our nation's founders decided was a necessary check on Government power, and boy did they get it right. Even many prosecutors, who are greatly inconvenienced by juries, believe in the current system. Those that are accused of crime and civil litigants of many stripes are often thankful that they have a Constitutionally protected right to have the facts and/or dollar value of their case decided by a jury of their peers rather than by a judge who they may properly believe is in some small way beholden to their more politically powerful opponent.
Long live the jury system!

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