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The Jury Summons – Why It Should Make You Cry for Joy
We all know what it’s like to get that summons with its auspicious red bar. But what is your reaction when you are called to serve? What is the reaction of your friends?
If it’s like some of the reactions we’ve heard, it’s anything but a cry for joy. In fact it may sound (and feel like) a pretty big whine.
Do these comments sound familiar?
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- “Tell them you’re for the death penalty! They’ll let you go right away!”
- “They won’t touch you once they learn you work for those lawyers.”
- “Can’t you get out of it?”
We think there’s something way amiss here — like a complete memory gap when it comes to the fundamentals of what makes America, well, America. So let’s go straight to the bottom line: the civil jury is a cornerstone of the American system of government. Without it, ordinary people don’t stand a chance when an entity — say a mega financial services provider or even your employer — does something terribly wrong, intentionally or not. Clout, not fairness, becomes the winner in a jury-less scenario.
The civil jury, and your right to serve on it, is a precious gift bequeathed to us by our democracy. Eloquently described by William Blackstone in the 1700’s, the jury "prevents the encroachments of the more powerful and wealthy citizens” — something I think we all agree is in our collective best interests.
Put in today’s terms, serving on a jury is important business. The decisions made by a jury impact people just like you, or us. Whatever the issue, be it one that settles a million dollar contract dispute between business owners or one that decides what happens when your elderly parent suffers from inadequate retirement home care, you can be sure that the issue matters a whole lot to the person who launched the lawsuit in the first place.
We think it’s a mini miracle — the coming together of 12 impartial people, chosen randomly and without regard to race, sex, occupation or socio-economic status, to give their full attention to an issue that could affect any one of us.
And we think that if the day ever comes that you’ve been cheated, defrauded, injured or defamed by somebody or something you’ve trusted, you’ll want those folks in the jury box to be just as interested in your plight as you are.
Bet you’ll even be hoping they jumped for joy when they got the summons.