Thomas Stilp, JD, MBA/MM, LLM, MSC
For those of us who earn a living based on the collective wisdom of strangers deciding the important matters we place before them, thank you! But on the other side of the jury rail, to those who have to appear and sit as jurors, we know, at first, the general opinion is “no thanks!”
That feeling always goes away once selected, sworn-in and the jurors each feel the weight of the task before them. One of the leading trial lawyers of our time, Philip Corboy who practiced in Chicago, would remind the jury of its important role throughout history. The right to a jury trial began over 800 years ago in Runnymede, England. Since that time, people in English speaking countries have had the right to a trial by jury, a right embodied in our federal Constitution and in the Constitutions of all 50 states.
There is criticism of the jury system. It is cumbersome. It is time-consuming. It can be expensive. But that all changes when one sits on a jury.
Nevertheless, panic sets in when people get a summons to appear for jury service. To avoid getting a summons, some people make other “arrangements” that appear to be as ingenious and varied as people are ingenious and varied. But on reflection, these “arrangements” usually don’t work.
A recent article out of Quincy, Illinois reviewed the common myths to avoid jury duty. (Matt Hopf, Herald-Whig, Jan. 30, 2019 retrieved at https://www.whig.com/20190130/selecting-juries-is-yearlong-process#). One myth to avoid jury duty is fail to register to vote. But that doesn’t help because jurors are also selected through driver’s license registration, ID cards and unemployment rolls. In short, if the government wants to find you, it will. Then it’s up to the judge if there will be a hearing on contempt of court.
In the end, serving on a jury can be an interesting experience, and if you get a summons to appear, instead of panicking, think about being part of something that has been around for hundreds of years. There must be a reason —