Though it is often a punchline or something to dream up a creative escape to, jury duty is one of the cornerstones of American civic life. It helps ensure fair trials, it unites citizens, and it upholds some of the basic tenets of American society.
Jury duty begins with summons in the form of a mailed notice. Summons are mailed to a wide pool of American citizens, who are asked to come to the court on a specific date. Once they arrive, the selection process for the jury begins. Questionnaires and completed and lawyers begin to narrow down who the final twelve jurors will be through a question-and-answer process. In most states, the law protects employees who are participating in the jury duty process.
Below we outline some of the reasons why being a part of jury duty is absolutely necessary.
1. It’s the Law
While it is easy to ignore the reminders that come in the mail, it’s important to stay alert and on top of your jury duty requests. Jury duty is mandatory and skipping it can have consequences. For example, in El Paso County, you can be fined up to $1,000 and a judge can even order jail confinement.
2. You’re Reinforcing Constitutional Rights
The Sixth Amendment in the Constitution guarantees that everyone in the United States can have a fair trial. Participating in jury duty helps ensure that those on trial are receiving just treatment by the legal system. As a juror, it is your responsibility to represent your fellow citizens and to provide an unbiased perspective on the case. Skipping jury duty is cheating your fellow citizens out of their constitutional right.
3. Your Voice Makes a Difference
Right now, many people are frustrated and feel that they can’t make a difference in world, either in politics, economics, or the environment. However, jury duty is an instance where you can have a direct impact on your community. Sure, it may not be as exciting as late night Law & Order episodes, where the trial is condensed into a short twenty-minute montage, but the courts you will be selected for are hearing cases that are from your area, and the decisions you make will have an effect on those around you, one with real consequences. Your active participation is absolutely necessary to ensure that citizens’ voices are being heard in the legal process.
4. Everyone Has to Do It
From former presidents to pop country stars, everyone is eligible to be selected for jury duty. Because jury duty is something required by everyone–regardless of class, race, gender, sexual orientation, political inclination, and so on–it cuts across sometimes divisive lines and is a space where everyone is truly equal, with the same power and influence as everyone else.
And who knows–your local hero might be there too!