Judges Taking Action Against No-Show Jurors

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U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman in Portland, Or., ordered Elsie Mathews to court to tell him why she brushed off jury duty in early April. She faced a potential contempt of court citation, The Oregonian reports. The rare summons marked the court’s frustration with people who ignore the call to jury duty. This year, U.S. District Judge Anna Brown had questionnaires sent to 1,000 prospective jurors for the second trial in the takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, but about 200 questionnaires never came back.

No-show jurors are a growing national trend and affect the function of both federal and state courts, said law Prof. Andrew Ferguson of the University of the District of Columbia, author of “Why Jury Duty Matters: A Citizen’s Guide to Constitutional Action.” Many people look at jury duty as a burden that interferes with their work schedules or other commitments, Ferguson said. They’ve forgotten that it’s crucial to the functioning of the nation’s court system and a part of the country’s “constitutional identity” that gives them a voice in the administration of justice, he said. The average failure-to-appear rate for jurors in state courts is 9 percent nationwide, but some courts have no-show rates as high as 50 percent. The number of people who show up for federal jury selection has dropped annually since 2012, from 237,411 to 194,211 in 2016 nationwide. It’s not clear if that’s tied to fewer trials held or more people ignoring jury duty. “What we’re finding now is that judges are starting to be more aggressive on the problem,” said Jeffrey Frederick of the National Legal Research Group, a legal research firm.

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