Friday, November 09, 2012

You Won't Get Caught Avoiding Jury Duty In Hendry

Skipping Out On Hendry County Jury Duty - Easy To Do Without Penalty

LABELLE, FL. -- You don't have to show up for jury duty Hendry County citizens have been finding out for years. The Hendry County, Florida County and Circuit Court jury pool system is broken and authorities don't know how to fix it.

Even County Judge James Sloan says "Jury duty to many people has become a joke, but there is no one laughing." Except maybe those who have found they don't have to show up anymore for Hendry jury duty.

Photo: County Judge James Sloan

Southwest Florida Online has been reporting on low turnout for jury duty since March 2007 when the Clerk's office sent out 450 summonses for jury duty and only 60 people showed up, about 13% of those sent letters in the mail.

The Clerk's office admitted at the time that no follow up was made to find out why people didn't show up although anyone now showing up will be sent letter in a few months summoning them to jury duty again. Once a citizen does show up they are not required to serve on jury duty for another 12 months.

Moving ahead to April 2009 another Southwest Florida Online story reported out of 400 summonses sent out by the Clerk for jury duty only 50 showed up, and all mostly white males and females, with three African-Americans and a smattering of Latinos.

In May, 2010 another story we reported showed only 50 out of 400 were showing up at that time as well.

In October 2011 we again reported on jury duty in a story called "How to Avoid Jury Duty." By this time, people were apparently realizing they could safely ignore summonses mailed to them with no adverse consequences.  Only four percent, four out of one hundred, or one in 25 people were showing up for jury duty in 2011, down from 12 percent, one in eight in 2007.

At that time, Circuit Judge John E. Duryea and County Judge James D. Sloan had written a press release pointing out how tax dollars "are wasted" mailing out thousands of summonses every month only to have most of them ignored.

WINK News from Fort Myers did an investigation this week interviewing Clerk Administrator Christina Jedrykowski and LaBelle's 21-year veteran Judge James Sloan. 

Sloan told reporters "From a cost benefit analysis, it cheaper to send out 1,500 regular summons than it is 200 certified. The downside is we don't know who has gotten them and who hasn't," adding "We're going to have to dip into limited resources and start sending out certified mail because that's the only way I can affirmative prove that has someone received their jury summons and chose to ignore it," said Sloan.

Whether that will happen remains to be seen. Hendry county is unique in having the most number of people skipping jury duty of all the surrounding area counties.

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.

All of Southwest Florida Online's reporting of Jury Duty Avoidance


  1. Anonymous2:54 PM

    you know its a damn shame the way the treat you when you DO SHOW UP.
    last time I went
    I sat there all day, only to be told go home we don't need you every case took a deal because we had you waiting.
    We sat there 8 hours on a hard wood bench like we were in jail, while they held proceedings other places and ignored us like criminals.

    to add insult to injury I got served again less than 30 days after that.
    and you wonder why people don't go?
    I was lied to and told I would be good for a year and was called again 30 days later. Only in Hendry County I tell ya, it is not fair to the ones that do serve.

  2. Anonymous7:49 PM

    If they would call a jury when they need them and not just have them waste their time more may respond to jury duty. If defendents were told no plea bargins after jurrors called less jurrors would be needed. Jurrors feel like their time is not valued. Their time is more valuable than that of the judge, lawyers and the rest. Until they realise that they will have problems getting jurrors.