I am sure all of you have, or will be selected for Jury Duty. Your first response may be, “how do I get out of it”, or “what a pain”. While this initial reaction is understandable, we all should know that it can be both a fascinating and rewarding experience, and one that cannot be duplicated in any other country in the world.
We are the only industrialized nation that allows a jury of normal, everyday citizens to resolve civil (and criminal) disputes. The individuals, or entities that have filed a civil law suit (whether it be for money damages, or to enforce a law or ordinance), have put their faith in the Jury System as a way to resolve their disputes. Any party can request a jury in a civil matter, but, just as easily, parties can choose to have their disputes resolved by a Judge. The fact that most cases that are brought within the Court System are resolved, if not by settlement, by Juries, should make everyone realize the importance of the jury in our system of resolving disputes.
With that in mind, when you are selected for jury duty, you should realize that the parties in the dispute may have waited over 2 years to get to this point of actually trying the case. As a result, it is important for you to be as honest as possible with the Court and the parties in the jury selection process.
If any of you have any prejudices not only with regard to the parties, but with regard to the type of dispute you will be deciding, it is important to let the Court and the parties know of these prejudices. No party wants a juror who has already made up his or her mind before the case begins.
If any of do not feel that you can fairly decide the case, it is important for you to let the Court know. The Court will allow you to go to side bar (outside the presence of the other jurors) where you can explain to the Court and the attorneys involved why you cannot decide the case fairly. No one will ridicule you. All parties to the action, in addition to the Court, will appreciate your honesty and will dismiss you from that particular jury panel quickly and politely.
It is a privilege to serve as a juror and unlike elections, where your voice may be only 1 out of thousands or millions, in the jury room, a juror has the opportunity to have a significant voice regarding the issues and the ultimate outcome of the case. The Jury System here in this country is a symbol of our democracy. While there have been attempts to have disputes resolved though mediations and arbitrations, the Jury System remains one of the fundamental pillars on which our system of jurisprudence is based.
So, when you get the “dreaded” jury notice in the mail, try to look at it as an honor that few in this world experience and not as a dreaded obligation. If you do, there is little doubt that it will be one of the most fascinating and rewarding experiences of your life as a citizen of this great democracy. You can and will have an impact on someone’s life, even in the smallest of disputes.