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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Price of Jury Duty

Just before the holidays, I spent time carefully arranging my calendar for March. Booked a trip to Chicago for the ABA's fabled Tech Show one week, and booked a trip to Washington DC for the Big Ten basketball tourney with some college friends I had not seen in a few years.

Then, last week, a jury summons showed up in the mail. Not just any summons; this one was for federal court. The only other time in my life that I was called for jury duty [2002] was also for federal court in Detroit.

Here's how federal jury duty works: the summons advises that you are on call for two weeks. The prospective juror is required to call a number every night and listen to a recording advising whether you have to appear at the Theodore Levin federal courthouse in Detroit the next day.

In my case, the two weeks overlapped with both trips for which I had just completed payment. As I thought about how to go about postponing my commitment, a sinking feeling overcame me as I dialed the number on the summons.

After entering my juror number and following the recorded prompts, I could tell the court's administrative office was waiting for prospective jurors like me. Who among us doesn't have something significant in any given week that, in our minds, constitutes good cause to avoid reporting for jury duty? I hung-up the phone.

Instead of trying to write the requisite missive to the court explaining all of my carefully laid plans and how they conflicted with my prospective jury service and awaiting their response, I set about cancelling my trips.

At first, I thought, what a shame; having to cancel two trips for being on juror call when I would never be sworn in as a juror anyway due to my status as a practicing lawyer. I was really looking forward to getting to Chicago as I had not been in a while. Same thing Washington DC.

Then I got to thinking how important jurors were when selecting them for one of my own trials. How much the Court and the litigators counted on those jurors to arrive at the courthouse on time each morning to pay close attention so we could put on our case without delay; how much we counted on them to "get it right".

Serving on a jury is one of the most important services we can perform as citizens. Our service allows trials to proceed through a verdict that will determine the outcome of a dispute. Jury service is therefore one of the hallmarks of our civil society.

Post #576

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