Jury Service Awareness Month

From the InBox:

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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.

Comments

  1. Thomas Wright says

    “The right to trial by a jury of our peers is a critical part of our justice system.” — Tom Wright

    The title quotation is the first sentence of Texas Governor Rick Perry’s proclamation, declaring July 2014 to be Jury Service Awareness Month. Most of us have heard similar words, before. However, do Americans really know the source of that judicial principle?

    Most of us have engaged in casual discussions among our peers, at work, at play, and even at church, in which the central topic concerned avoiding jury duty. Many who are summoned do not even appear. Others seek to game the system.

    The purpose of this comment is not to trace the historical origins of jury trials from the Magna Carta, British Common Law, or other historical documents. The present purpose is (1) to explain how a trial by a jury of one’s peers fit the theological mindset of our founding fathers, and (2) to encourage present day Christians to view jury duty from that same foundation. For the most part, the founders of America were devout Christians, in days when studying the Scriptures was an important part of American life.
    Trial by Nobles

    In past times, one could have observed nobles in European courtrooms testifying against poor peasants. The nobles had no frame of reference for understanding what a poor peasant was going through—trying to scrounge scraps off the streets to feed his family. They could not identify with a peasant’s life and were not in any position to judge the peasant’s behavior, having never walked in peasant shoes.

    Trial by a Jury of One’s Peers —
    Those of us who have served on juries, and have watched the jury selection process, understand that the lawyers, presumably, are attempting to select a jury which can empathize with the accused. A jury comprised of people with a similar social status are considered to be peers of the accused, and should be best able to understand what the accused was going through when the crime occurred.

    America’s judicial system includes the concept of a trial by a jury from among one’s peers. Also, in the military, the Universal Code of Military Justice requires that an officer be judged by a jury comprised of officers. And, an enlisted person must be judged by a jury of enlisted personnel. In both the New Testament and the Old Testament, trials were supposed to be comprised of people who could understand the viewpoint of the accused.

    God judges humans the same way. That member among the three Persons of the Trinity, Who has been chosen to do the judging, is God the Son—our Lord Jesus Christ—Who shares our humanity.

    The Person of Christ —
    The church fathers labored for the better part of five centuries to understand and to define the relationship between the deity and the humanity of Jesus Christ. The Nicene and Chalcedon and Nicene Creeds concluded that:
    Our Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son, is undiminished deity and true humanity, united in one Person, without severance, without mixture or confusion of attributes, forever, His very nature being personal and eternal.
    The men at Nicaea and at Chalcedon never thought of their creeds as having introduced anything new—they were simply stating the teachings from the Apostles accurately.

    His Humanity —
    There are a lot of exciting things that happen to us because of His humanity. Allah, and all the other gods that supposedly exist, never came to this earth, never walked as humans, and, consequently, cannot judge us as our peer.

    Jesus Humanity Lived by the Power of the Holy Spirit —
    Adam had sinned when tempted by Satan. The first temptation of Jesus was also by Satan. Jesus passed the test that Adam had failed. As a test pilot challenges an airplane beyond any limits of normal use, our Lord Jesus lived by the power of the Holy Spirit, under testing far greater than any we will ever face—yet without sin.
    Had He used His deity to solve normal human problems (e.g. hunger), then He would not have remained our peer. He would have become disqualified to be a peer judge over humans. He had to face life exactly the way we face life. That means that Jesus Christ can understand; it means that He has empathy with us; and, He can be an accurate peer judge.

    God the Father Turned Judgment Over to the Son Because He is our Peer
    John 5:22, 27-30 For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, 27 and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.

    In the above verse, the word for Man is anthropos. God the Son is true humanity—our peer. That is the reason that God the Father turned all judgment over to Him. The Father cannot be a peer judge. Only God the Son can be our peer judge.

    Jesus Christ is Our Advocate Before the Father’s Throne —
    The Scriptures say that the Holy Spirit, Who indwells every believer in Christ, intercedes on our behalf. His intercession is related to personal needs related to our spiritual maturity. That intercession is to God the Son.

    As our peer, God the Son can sympathize with our weaknesses. Thus, He can (and does) intercede on our behalf before the Father.

    Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

    Believer’s Rewards at the “Bema” Judgment Seat —
    Jesus Christ will judge our works in eternity for eternal rewards. We cannot blow smoke in his eyes, saying, “You don’t understand the pressure I was under.” Yes He can.

    Romans 14:10b-12 For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. 11 For it is written: “As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.” 12 So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. 2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

    The Great White Throne Judgment —
    Alternatively, unbelievers will also appear before the Lord Jesus Christ at the last judgment.

    Revelation 3:5-6 He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

    Revelation 13:8 All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

    Revelation 20:11-15 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

    What is so sad about this judgment is the self-deception in which most people live. There is not a legal system in any country on the face of our planet in which the judicial system weighs people’s good works against their bad works. If I am ticketed for running through a red traffic light, the fact that I have never been ticketed before does not erase my having violated the law. Yet, most people expect God to judge in that way.

    On His Cross at Calvary, the Lord Jesus Christ paid the penalty for all of the sins of all human beings for all time. Sin is not an issue in salvation. Salvation is a free gift. One of the two criminals who were crucified with Jesus, understood that Jesus was being judged as a substitute for all, and accepted the gift of salvation. He had no works to offer, but Jesus said to him, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”

    Salvation is really that simple—we either accept or reject a free gift. One can simply pray something like this: “Father, I recognize that Jesus Christ, as my substitute, paid the penalty for my sins on His Cross. I accept His work on my behalf. Thank you for my salvation in Him.”

    Jury Duty —
    Governor Perry’s proclamation of July 2014 as Jury Service Awareness Month is a good thing. All Americans would do well to appreciate the privilege we have of serving on a jury comprised of peers of the accused.

    Moreover, we Christians might consider our serving on Jury Duty as more than just a civic duty. It is a privilege which honors the way our God deals with us through His Son. We can recognize the underlying principle that was established when God the Father appointed God the Son—our Peer—to be the final Judge of the entire human race.