From the InBox:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 7, 2014
Contact: Jennifer Harris
Phone: (512) 773-7168
NEW STUDY FINDS LOW RATES OF JURY SERVICE PARTICIPATION A WIDESPREAD PROBLEM IN TEXAS
Governor Rick Perry Proclaims July “Juror Appreciation Month,” Urges Texans to Respond to Call for Jury Service
AUSTIN, TEXAS—According to a recent study, Texans called to serve on a jury still are not showing up. The study found that in some Texas counties, as many as 80 percent of those summoned for jury duty simply fail to show up.
The study was commissioned by legal watchdogs Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA) to research response rates in 13 Texas counties over the last four years. Ten counties responded, showing a widespread problem in Texas with low rates of participation in jury service, even after reforms were passed to increase juror pay.
Noting the importance of jury service to our civil justice system, Governor Rick Perry has declared July to be Juror Appreciation Month in Texas.
In his proclamation, Gov. Perry states, “The right to a trial by a jury of our peers is a critical part of our justice system. Unfortunately, many undervalue that right and shirk responsibility when they are called to jury service. Because plaintiffs, defendants and our communities as a whole all have a vested interest in fair, impartial justice, it is imperative that every citizen priorities jury service and thoughtfully, respectfully serves when called.”
“Our justice system doesn’t work without people to serve on a jury,” said Jennifer Harris of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse of Central Texas (CALACTX). “We need more Texans to follow the Governor’s lead and respond to the call to serve.”
Highlights from the study on jury service participation rates include:
- Montgomery (14.12 percent) and Harris (26.54 percent) notched the lowest participation rates of examined counties, and also showed a decline from the previous year (2012).
- Cameron County reported the highest participation rates of those counties surveyed with nearly 73 percent.
- Participation varies by zip code. In 2004 in Harris County jury participation ranged from 5 percent to 35 percent depending on zip code, with higher response rates among higher income neighborhoods.
- Transitions to electronic summons systems – which save on postage and reduce administrative costs for counties – have had varying success and impact on jury service participation. Hidalgo County saw a lower juror response rate in 2010 after the implementation of the new online summons system.
“Nearly 90 percent of Texans believe that serving on a jury is an important, but they still aren’t showing up,” said Diane Davis of East Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse (ETALA). “They might talk the talk, but Texans certainly don’t walk the walk when it comes to serving on a jury. It’s time we changed that.”
CALA is working to raise awareness about jury service as an important civic duty and a critical role to the ability of our courts to be able to properly function.
“The right to a trial by a jury of your peers is one of the most important freedoms Americans enjoy,” added Connie Scott of Bay Area Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (BACALA). “It’s integral to have a jury of engaged citizens to make sure that our justice system runs efficiency and how it was intended.”
“Texans need to appreciate the important role jurors play in our civil justice system. By returning an impartial verdict, jurors make sure our courts are used for justice, not greed,” said Febe Zepeda of Rio Grande Valley Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (RGVCALA). “Jurors also increase the transparency to make sure that all of our valid court cases receive an equal and fair consideration.”
“Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse groups are proud to be working across Texas to shine a light on this issue, educate citizens on the importance of jury service and encourage citizens to answer the call to serve,” said Hazel Meaux of Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse (TALA) . “We’re grateful to have Gov. Perry join us in this effort to improve jury service participation across the state.”
The full jury service study is available online by clicking here.
To view the full proclamation from Gov. Perry, click here.
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If you ever have to go in front of a judge, wouldn’t you want the pool of potential jurors to be large enough for your attorney to weed out jurors she thought were biased against you? Think about that the next time you receive a summons to serve. My friend Lucy Forbes is an appellate attorney and recently served on a jury. After that experience, she had this to say:
I want to make a personal plea to all my Facebook friends to please serve as a juror. Let me tell you the perks, having recently served myself for the second time. Here are 7 reasons why you should serve:
1. Everyone rises when you enter or leave the courtroom. You are the fact finder and arguably have the most important job in that room.
2. You’ll experience our judicial system first-hand and it is the best system there is.
3. You are escorted by a bailiff every place you go. People will look at you and wonder why you are so official and important that you and your group have a police escort. The bailiff will stop traffic for you as you cross the street, be sure you arrive at your lunch destination safely, and make sure you all stay together.
4. Once you are impaneled, you get paid $30 a day. You get an additional $7 credit towards lunch every day. And, you get a discount on parking at the 1401 Congress lot ($6 all day) and they will let you in, even if there is a sign that says garage full, if you show them your juror badge. I never had trouble finding parking there.
“You earn $37 dollars a day to serve? That’s laughable. I make much more than that.” I understand. But what if that amount represented a rise in income for everyone who served? Is that jury of your peers? We need a cross section of society to represent a jury of our peers. For some, this is more money than they make in a year. For others, they make more than that every second that they are at work. Jury of your peers means no one is exempt who can fulfill the oath.
5. You get to meet fellow jurors who you might never meet otherwise, and they all have interesting stories to share about their profession, kids, and lives.
6. Is it inconvenient? Yes. But would you rather have 12 jurors decide the cases for our society who will not listen to the evidence, be impartial and unbiased, and follow the law as given in the charge? Is it more convenient to live among those who can freely commit murders, child molestation, assault, theft, etc? Is it better that 12 people serve who won’t be impartial and fair to resolve your personal disputes, whether criminal, civil, or family?
7. If you don’t serve, and all of us who are able adopt that view, who will serve if it is YOUR matter? Would you want someone who is sane, rational, open to listening to the evidence, and will make a reasoned and unbiased decision based on the evidence and the law as given in the charge? Or do you want 12 unsound mind, irrational, insane jurors who will ignore the evidence and the charge and just do whatever? Because that is who will be left if we don’t all step up.
“Well, I don’t have any legal matters and don’t plan on having any. Of course you think this. You’re a lawyer.” Do you think anyone wakes up and decides they want to be a victim of a crime or malpractice today, or become the victim of an employer or business partner who won’t keep their word in a contract? Do you think anyone wakes up thinking they want to hurt someone, provide a workplace environment that hurts someone, or commit malpractice at their job today? Most of the people involved in litigation are not there intentionally or willingly. Our judicial system is there for all of us in case we need a resolution process. It doesn’t work without impartial, unbiased jurors of all walks of life to serve faithfully to the oath they take.
Please show up and serve as a juror if you are called. Our judicial system doesn’t work unless we all do our part.