Phoenix courts are threatening potential jurors with contempt charges and fines up to $500 if they do not appear in court when summoned, the Arizona Republic reports. Colin Campbell, presiding judge of Maricopa County Superior Court, yesterday signed an order creating a “Scofflaw Court” to put teeth into jury reform. He said that for every 100 people summoned to serve as jurors, the court gets about 25 “real bodies” back. Many postpone their service, but others simply ignore their duty. County residents failed to respond to 20 percent of the 350,000 summonses sent out last year. That amounts to about 315 no-shows each day court was in session.
Campbell said the decision to crack down wasn’t easy because judges and attorneys prefer volunteer jurors. In May, Arizona became the first state to pass a major jury service reform law. But until now, nothing has been done to penalize those who ignore their summonses.
Starting Oct. 1, the sheriff will serve a letter to citizens who don’t respond to a first and second summons. If they don’t have a good reason, they can face a maximum $500 fine.