Monday, April 25, 2005

Jury Duty: It takes a Nation

DUI Blog : Bad Drunk Driving Laws, False Evidence and a Fading Constitution

The hardest thing to do for most folks is to sit in judgment of a fellow citizen. I have always thought of people who serve on juries in our country as real patriots. They allow themselves to be dragged into a dispute that they are otherwise not involved in and have to participate in a very tough ritual to finally be selected to "enjoy" the "privilege" of service. They risk their jobs and often are reimbursed next to nothing ( I am aware of one state where it costs more an hour to park near the court than a juror makes an hour during service.) They are inconvenienced in so many ways and yet without them our system of fair trial grinds to a halt.

Then you get cases like the one my fellow criminal defense lawyer and blawgger talks about in the link above. Judges showing all the judicial qualities of hungry irritable dinosaurs and Attorney sore losers who just don't know when they should shut up. Help is on the way however in the form of a new American Bar Association Report entitled "The American Jury Project" . The report has Nineteen principals which Courts and States will want to implement to help keep people involved in jury duty and assure the health of our legal system and especially our Trial rights.

In reviewing the report there are some strikingly good suggestions such as:

Principal 1 (E):A quality and accessible jury system should be maintained with budget procedures that will ensure adequate, stable, long-term funding under all economic conditions.
In other words government's shouldn't cut the jury when they have to cut corners.

SERVICE AND THEIR SERVICE SHOULD BE FACILITATED A. All persons should be eligible for jury service except those who:
5. Have been convicted of a felony and are in actual confinement or
on probation, parole or other court supervision.

I think this is a great idea. Many states deny the right of jury service to people who have been convicted of a felony there by disenfranchising many minority and poor people ( as they are more densely represented in the convicted felon ranks than Caucasians and wealthy people)
Including convicted felons who have served their sentences is a good way to welcome the felon back into societies ranks and to start the healing process that usually seems not to occur after the felon has paid his debt to society,
I would like to go one step further here to assure a jury of ones peers and also a cross-section of the community and bring an end to the practice of death qualifying a jury. If a death penalty case is on the docket and one is opposed to the death penalty they are forbidden from serving on the jury. This is unfair and means that people who oppose the death penalty do not get a say on that jury. They are discriminated against and so is the accused who often loses a juror who maybe more disposed to his side of the case whether or not there was a death sentence involved in the matter.

Principal 2 (C)(1) & (2) stands for the proposition that no one should have to spend more than one day in a central jury room waiting to see if they get called on a case. The proposition is that they serve one day or one trial whichever is longer. Where that cannot be accomplished the principal requires no more than 2 weeks service ( unless on a jury that is going longer) at least you are not stuck there forever.

And then there is Principal 2 (F) (1-3) which I reprint here:
"F. Persons called for jury service should receive a reasonable fee.
1. Persons called for jury service should be paid a reasonable fee that
will, at a minimum, defray routine expenses such as travel,
parking, meals and child-care. Courts should be encouraged to
increase the amount of the fee for persons serving on lengthy trials.
2. Employers should be prohibited from discharging, laying off,
denying advancement opportunities to, or otherwise penalizing
employees who miss work because of jury service.
3. Employers should be prohibited from requiring jurors to use leave
or vacation time for the time spent on jury service or be required to
make up the time they served.
I think this section needs to take in the needs of employers also. Small offices or highly technical jobs of course put a big burden on small employers. On the other hand businesses need jurors also and they need to know that they must suck up the cost of this type of service. Maybe there should be insurance for losing a key employee so that the employee is guaranteed to get his regular salary and the employer can then use the salary to hire a temp.

Anyway those are just the first two principals. There are nineteen others that range from jurors taking notes to jurors asking questions!! I may be writing more on this wonderful document in the coming weeks but for now we should be ready and willing to let our State assemblages and Senators and judges know we support these suggestions and want to see them put into effect. It may costs a little more but our justice system just needs to know that without jurors their is no justice.

That's what I think. If you think you want to discuss it on line leave a message or comment here or write to me through my law firm contact us pad found at . I'd loved to know what you thought of your service on a jury and/ or why you didn't want to serve or what motivated you to serve. I am also interested in hearing your suggestions to improve the jury system in NY and on Long Island.

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