In a new crackdown by Marion Superior Court in Indianapolis on jury duty scofflaws, notices went out to 325 people who failed to appear for jury duty during one week in October, reports the Indianapolis Star. Nearly 100 were there yesterday to face a judge and choose between further contempt proceedings or a new assignment between Thanksgiving and Christmas. All chose a second shot at jury duty, except for a handful who were excused because they are not U.S. citizens or don't speak English.
The get-tough policy comes after years of lax enforcement and dwindling turnout. Fewer than half of those called show up on a typical day. Yesterday's hearing was the first en-masse summoning of scofflaws in memory. Judge Mark Stoner, who oversees the jury pool, spent the afternoon shuttling between hearings in two courtrooms. He told each group of a dozen or more people that America's right to a trial by jury was meaningless if potential jurors didn't show up. “Whether you agree or not with the concept of jury duty, a court summons is an order,” Stoner said. If they fail to show up a second time, he added, “the court will have no option but to issue a warrant for your arrest.” Community service or jail could follow. Administrators are keeping lists of jury no-shows, with the possibility for a repeat of today's hearings if attendance doesn't improve. So far, after an initial uptick last month, it hasn't.