Twelve Apathetic Men: Why No Wants to Get Convicted of Jury Duty

By Beato, Greg | Reason, December 2011 | Go to article overview

Twelve Apathetic Men: Why No Wants to Get Convicted of Jury Duty


Beato, Greg, Reason


RECENTLY I SPENT the morning in a large room at San Francisco's Hall of Justice along with several hundred others watching Ideals Made Real, the world's least convincing infomercial. A 14-minute anesthetic that the state of California administers to anxious citizens to ease the pain of imminent empaneling, Ideals Made Real is filled with photogenic flags, close-ups of the Constitution, and candid disclosures from sedately enthusiastic jury duty survivors. "It's often a deep and moving experience to be on a jury," a robotic female narrator eventually concludes, and yet few in the audience seem sold on this premise. Young, old, rich, poor, as demographically diverse a cross-section of the public as the court system's computers can randomly generate, the great overwhelming bulk of them share the last common bond uniting America: They want to escape jury duty. Desperately. When a judge enters the room and asks those who aren't planning to plead hardship of one sort or another to stand up, only a couple dozen of us rise to our feet.

At a time when sentiments against government overreach animate the land, this ennui is, if not exactly puzzling, at least ironic. Trial by jury isn't merely a Hollywood plot device. It's a mechanism designed to prevent government oppression and to disperse the state's power into the hands of the common man. It's the ultimate embodiment of government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Just one problem: The people don't seem all that interested in the job.

Earlier this year in Midland, Texas, for example, 601 out of the 750 people who were summoned to jury duty during a week in September didn't even bother to show up to the courthouse. "It's the most dramatic decline since I've been on the bench," 238th District Judge John Hyde told a local newspaper. That same month in the Virgin Islands, Superior Court Judge James Carroll 111 had to postpone jury selection because of poor compliance to summonses. "With 38 jurors, you cannot select a jury," he told a reporter. In Indiana, 10,000 people have ignored their jury duty summons since January 2011, prompting Judge Mark Stoner of the Marion Superior Court to start threatening jail time for those who fail to appear.

Jury apathy, or even antipathy, isn't a new phenomenon. In 1939, The New York Times reported that New York County was implementing a number of measures to "curb evasion of jury service." One ongoing factor, of course, is the economic burden jury service imposes. In 1791, jury fees were 50 cents a day. According to legal scholar Evan R. Seamone, who wrote about the history of jury compensation in the Spring 2002 issue of New York University's Journal of Legislation and Public Policy, Congress chose this amount to approximate "the rate the average laborer was paid in Philadelphia."

According to Seamone, the average American juror received "at least the prevailing wage of the time period" as recently as 1918. Over time, however, our legislators have began to look more and more at jurors as a source of cheap labor, less valuable (or at least less compensated) than McDonald's trainees and freelance squeegee guys. Today, jurors in federal court are paid $40 a day--well under the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. In South Carolina, state court jurors receive as little as $2 per day in some counties.

This is one gig where you can't just tell the boss to take this job and shove it. Or if you do, be prepared to a pay a fine of as much as $2,000 or spend some time in jail. Ironically, the sys tem that protects us from unchecked state power requires unchecked state power. If jury duty were voluntary, the thinking goes, juries would ultimately skew toward retirees, the unemployed, close friends of people who are frequently charged with murder, and the like. To ensure that juries are comprised of what the Jury Selection and Service Act of 1968 dubs a "fair cross-section of the community," we make jury duty compulsory. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Twelve Apathetic Men: Why No Wants to Get Convicted of Jury Duty
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.