You open the mail, and there’s a summons requiring you to appear for federal or state jury duty. Regardless of the date, it’s found to be an inconvenience because someone else is now in control of your life. We all have commitments, we all have plans. But, as part of our American judicial system, you are being asked to move things around to accommodate someone that needs an ordinary citizen, like you, to help make a factual decision as to what occurred or did not occur. Depending on whether it’s a civil or criminal matter, you are asked to determine a fair amount to compensate one party or another, or whether to hold somebody accountable for committing a crime.
More likely than not, you will have all kinds of reasons why you would just as soon not have to show up on a particular day to serve on a jury. You know when you get there at the courthouse, you’ll have to find a place to park, worry about someone else having to cover some of your responsibilities somewhere else, etc.
But, what if you’re on the other side of that issue, and you’re wanting an ordinary citizen, just like you, to decide whether the prosecuting attorney has overcharged you with a criminal offense, or charged you with a crime you haven’t committed? What about if somebody else was negligent in causing you to suffer serious physical injury, or, God forbid, one of your loved ones to be killed? And, what if you’re arguing with an insurance company about the value that should be placed on compensation for your loss, or the loss of a loved one? Wouldn’t you want someone to listen to your story, who could objectively look at the facts, and maybe sift the truth from lies? Wouldn’t you want someone exactly like you to serve on your jury?
Remember, the next time you receive a request to serve on a jury, that that communication is an opportunity — a chance to help administer justice in our community. I can say, representing many clients who have had their day in court, that the courtroom is the one great equalizer in our society. It doesn’t matter whether you’re rich or poor, or if the other side has all the money in the world, if you get your opportunity to tell ordinary folks who are sitting on a jury, you have a very good chance to get justice in our society. But, it only happens if good, ordinary people, like you, are willing to serve their day in court, or their week sitting on a jury. So, the next time you get an invitation to serve on a jury, look at it as a window of opportunity to help your fellow citizen.