Jurors Needed; Courts Offer Incentives, Penalties

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Fed-up judges across the nation are putting prospective jurors who fail to appear in the hot seat, the Associated Press reports. Residents who ignore repeated calls to appear can face fines and, in some places, jail time. This month, only eight of 225 people identified as chronic offenders showed up to feel the wrath of Superior Court Judge James L. Wright in Long Beach, Ca. Those who ducked their duty were all fined; penalties would be dropped if they actually serve.

State courts around Phoenix are sending sheriff’s deputies to the homes of jury dodgers with orders to appear. In New York County, officials snared 1,443 Manhattan jury dodgers last year with $250 fines. The Los Angeles County court system, which sent out 2.9 million summonses in the last fiscal year, had an initial response rate around 25 percent. Many people say that serving can be a pain. Courts are becoming more accommodating. Baltimore this month began giving jurors cheap parking and discounts at downtown restaurants. California has unveiled simplified civil jury instructions and is working to craft the same for criminal cases. In several states, jury service is designed to limit dreaded assembly room waits to one day. New York has increased juror’s daily pay and is mulling the idea of offering free Internet access.

Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A58866-2004Sep29_2.html

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