Thursday, October 13, 2011

How To Avoid Jury Duty

Ninety-Five In One Hundred Don't Report For Jury Duty

LABELLE, FL. -- It seems really easy to ignore jury duty in Hendry county, Florida. About once a month the Hendry Clerk's Office summons up to 2000 citizens by mail to appear for jury duty. 1,900 people ignore the letters.

Although the official summons mailed to names drawn from county driver's license records requires an appearance to show up at the Courthouse, or at least to be on "stand-by," most everyone ignores the order.

The numbers showing up for jury duty over the years seem to be decreasing. In 2007, about 14% of those receiving a summons showed up at the Hendry Courthouse as required. By 2011, only about 4% heeded the summonses, from an informal survey by the Sunday Morning News/Southwest Florida Online.

The clerk's office says they have no explanation for why so few show up. Those absent are not contacted to find out a reason. Technically, anyone not showing up as requested could be called before the judge to explain and face possible sanctions. This is a very unlikely scenario as it turns out.

Circuit Judge John E. Duryea and County Judge James D. Sloan recently wrote a press release pointing out how tax dollars "are wasted" mailing out thousands of summonses only to have most of them ignored.

Attorneys say the reason people don't show up is because it's just too easy to get away with a non-appearance. The judges, for political reasons don't want to drag people into court to ask them why they didn't show up. Judges are elected officials and don't want to rock the boat and lose a vote, they say.

Non-appearance can mean a fine of up to $100 and a contempt of court citation.

Because of the low turnout, the Clerk of Court is forced to mail out between 400 and 600 letters for each trial, hoping to get five out of one hundred to show up.

About 20 people are needed for a county court trial panel of jurors, and 30 for circuit court, and 400 letters must be sent to get 20 people to show up and 600 to get 30 to show.

Most of the prospective jurors are presumably out and about, doing their own thing, ignoring the summons for jury duty, each for their own reasons, defying the court's order. Some may be ill, some may have changed addresses without notifying the Driver's License Bureau, some may have notified the court beforehand of legitimate excuses, but most are just simply ignoring the summons.

For those who do show up, they may be entitled to a token payment of $12 daily for duty should they be one of six chosen for a jury, providing they are not being paid by their employers while at court. One courtesy postponement from serving can usually be requested per year should the dates called prove a burden. Make a request to the Clerk before the trial date.

For those not showing up, maybe they have a job and just can't afford to take a day off. Or maybe they're just lazy, and no nothing will happen if they don't appear.
Those not showing up for jury duty do face being called upon every few months to serve though. But presumably, those people who ignored the first summons ignore any others as well.

Once a possible juror reports to the Courthouse, they are not recalled for another year. And most usually cases are settled at the last minute by the parties so the juror pool is then excused and sent home without having done anything except spend an hour or two at the Courthouse waiting.

If a trial does go forward, trials last less than a day, and only a few extend to two days, say the judges.

6 comments:

  1. Major Variola11:09 AM

    Maybe we resist slavery. Jury service
    is an option, not something you can
    be drafted for.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous8:42 AM

    to major variola...first your an idiot, second, how about you move to another country or maybe even think a moment and realize you are chopping away at YOUR OWN rights.Oh wait a minute your not smart enough to understand something so complicated...just move to another country and save us all the hassle of trying to explain this to you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous9:36 PM

      You're** Looks like you're the idiot here.

      Delete
  3. Anonymous10:11 AM

    THEY NEED TO SEND OUT THE LETTERS TO PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN HENDRY COUNTY, NOT GLADES COUNTY, THATS WHERE THE LETTERS ARE GOING, I LIVE IN GLADES COUNTY AND I GET ONE A YEAR. SORRY I CAN'T HELP YOU.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anonymous11:46 PM

    I CAN NOT FEED MY FAMILY ON 12 DOLLARS A DAY .OR PAY FOR MY KIDS DAYCARE.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Anonymous9:22 AM

    The argument that not wanting to, or not serving on a jury is a reason for you to leave the country is ridiculous. For decades Florida sent summons to registered voters only. Now they send to people with drivers licenses. Are you saying that someone with a driver license is “more” of a citizen than those that do not drive? Or is your argument that participation in the judicial system is a prerequisite to citizenship?

    The last time I checked we live in a “free” country. I do not see anywhere that participation in the judicial system is mandatory. Why should I be forced to do something when others are not.

    The fair thing to do would be to draw from the total citizens within an area, not just the drivers or registered voters.

    The real solution is to have professional jurors. You could run it like the notary system. You would need to take a course, pass a background check and pass a test. Then you would need to keep your license up to date just like registered nurses do.

    Short of that, I do not agree with some judge telling me to miss work and lose money just because I have a drivers license.

    ReplyDelete