Low juror turnout a problem

Via the Fredericksburg Standard Radio Post

Jury duty is a privilege that often inspires dread.

For many, the only thing worse than a bill in the mail is a jury summons, and the first instinct is to seek some way to get out of it. That mind-set needs to change or it could undermine our court system.

Some Texas counties report that as many as 80 percent of those summoned for jury duty report to the courthouse, according to a recent study released by Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse. But for others, it’s less than 50 percent.

Jury summonses are mailed almost every week. Some are undeliverable because the addresses, culled from Texas Department of Public Safety and voter registration records, were invalid. Some potential jurors are excused or disqualified from jury service after providing documentation showing they are not U.S. citizens, are attending school or other exemption.

Potential jurors who ignore a call to service can end up in jail or be fined.

Most of us will never need the service of a jury. But if we were involved in a civil dispute or charged with a crime, we would want a fair and impartial group of our peers sitting in the jury box. Ignoring our civic duty should never be considered an option.

Most people summoned to be in a jury pool will not be selected to hear a case, but their presence is key to the process. Many cases end in plea bargains and settlements, but the presence of waiting jurors is sometimes needed to motivate such agreements.

Jurors play a vital role in our system. It is crucial to stop apathy from undermining the process. – San Antonio Express-News