Civic Duty? What’s That?

Heaven forbid I should ever get into trouble with the law in such a capacity as to require a trial by jury.

Article III, Section 2, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution specifies:

The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury

The oft-misquoted addition to this, that the jury shall consist “of [the accused’s] peers,” is actually from the Magna Carta and is present in neither the U.S. Constitution nor the current Constitution of the State of Michigan (dated 1963).

This is what we in the industry refer to as A Good Thing™.

“But why?” you ask. “Isn’t being tried by a jury of your peers an ideal situation?”

Sure, if more than 20 of your peers can be arsed to actually show up for a jury summons. I overheard a couple people talking while we sat around the jury room this morning, one of whom had just been told by the clerk that “60 percent” of the people summoned for jury duty today failed to show. Now, it’s obvious some people consider jury duty to be an imposition. Pay for district and circuit court cases is terrible: $12.50 for the first half-day, $25 for the first full day, and $20 per half-day thereafter, and you still have to pay for parking out of your own pocket. Even someone working at McDonald’s makes more than that. So I can understand why people are reluctant to take an unpaid leave from work.

But that doesn’t excuse them from the civic responsibility of serving as potential jurors. As the Hon. Philip Schaefer, judge of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court, so eloquently put it:

I want you to do a simple math problem. Take the number of hours of jury duty you’ve served. Triple it if you want to. Now, divide that by the number of hours you’ve lived in our free, democratic society.

Go on. Do the math.

All this is not to say I think the present jury system is perfect. It’s not. Today was a great example of why picking jurors at random from the citizenry at large is a bad idea. But those of you who didn’t show up today, you should all be ashamed of yourselves. If you can’t be arsed to show up for potential jury duty, you can’t be arsed to go to the polls in November. If you can’t be arsed to vote for your leaders, then you have absolutely no leg to stand on when complaining about anything wrong with the United States. If you can’t be arsed to fulfill your civic responsibilities, the government can’t be arsed to send you your Social Security check, or your Medicare payment, or your welfare check, or — God forbid — your unemployment check. Because clearly, unemployed people have so many more worthwhile things to be doing with their time.

Think about it.

posted by Chris on 16 March 2004 at 1236 in general


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