Thomas Jefferson wrote, “I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” Jury duty, like voting, is a right and privilege of every citizen. Every day people are empowered to decide important issues that potential impact everyone in our community.
An alarming story came out in the The Atlanta Journal Constitution on Sunday that almost half of jurors summoned for jury duty in Fulton County fail to show. A crackdown has begun on jurors who skip jury duty by the Fulton County courts, but has so far provided little response. Last month, the Superior Court sent out 15,000 letters to no show jurors and warned them of contempt of court charges, $500 fines, and 20-day jail stays if they didn’t reschedule or explain themselves. To date only 48 percent of people receiving the letters have either called or written back.
When jurors do respond the most common reasons given for skipping were: “I never got the summons, “I traveled out of state,” and “I moved.” Regardless of the reason this is a very serious problem that is very costly for Fulton County and ultimately you the taxpayer. Furthermore, it’s important to remember that our entire system of justice comes down to one person: you, the juror. Taking the time to serve as a juror, to listen to all the evidence and to decide honestly and fairly is perhaps the most important duty a private citizen can perform. There is no question that everyone’s time is valuable, and that taking the time to serve as a juror might seem inconvenient, but it is time well spent, as our justice system depends on it. Citizens of this country enjoy freedoms and legal rights many in other countries only dream of. The protection of our rights and liberties is achieved through a strong court system, and serving as a juror is a cornerstone of the system.
Hopefully the crack down on no-show jurors will lead to an improvement in the overall number of people who are showing up for jury duty, and the trend in Fulton County will not spread to other areas of the metro Atlanta area. Fulton County Lawyers, prosecutors and judges depend on jurors for the system to work. Jurors bring the common sense and values of the community into the courtroom to resolve disputes and it is important the entire community be represented for our justice system to work effectively.