A Philosopher's Blog

Jury Duty

Posted in Law by Michael LaBossiere on September 27, 2009

On Thursday I received a summons for jury duty. Naturally, I was less than happy about this. On the one hand, I do recognize that I am supposed to have a civic duty to serve in this manner. Also, I am aware of the various philosophical arguments as to why trials by jury are good and important. On the other hand, there is much about it that I don’t like.

First, I don’t like the fact that the service is not optional and is backed by threats of punishment. I’m not big on being threatened and coerced into providing service. If asked nicely, I am always happy to help. When threatened, my initial reaction is always defiance followed by plans for defense and retaliation as needed. Of course, I do understand that they are just following Aristotle’s advice: most people are ruled by pain and not by fine ideals.  So, I don’t take the threats personally. But, I still feel some bitter resentment about this approach.  No doubt I’ve read Confucius too many times (ruling by moral force and all that).

Second, they do not pay for the parking here in Leon County. I am supposed to either park at the public library and walk a half a mile (no big deal for me, despite my knee) or shell out $5 to park nearby. If jury duty is so important, they should at least spring for a parking voucher.

Third, if your employer won’t pay you for your time serving on the jury, they pay you a laughable and pitiful amount. As I recall, it is $15 a day for the first three days and then it goes up a bit from there. Take out the $5 for parking, and that is even more absurd. While I do believe in civic duty and all that, the judges and lawyers are all well paid to do their duty. The citizens on the jury should also be properly compensated. This sort of absurd pay makes jury duty rather onerous for folks who are not compensated by their employers and is yet one more reason why most folks hate jury duty. If we can afford to drop millions on useless bureaucracy, then we can afford to give jurors a reasonable payment if they are losing money by serving. In my case, I get paid normally when on jury duty-but my concern is not just for me, but for other people.

Fourth, they won’t tell you until the night before whether they need you or not.  In some cases, I can understand this last minute crap, but they should be better at getting the trials planned and organized. Then again, perhaps this is the best they can do. Also, you need to sit around waiting through the selection process, which seems inefficient. But, again, maybe this is the best that can be done.

Fifth, while this provides me with a possible way out of service, there is  evidence that folks with education, knowledge and critical reasoning skills are generally dismissed. For example, my ex-wife was summoned a few years ago. When she told them she was a philosophy professor who taught philosophy of law and logic, they told her to go home. While I can see why a lawyer would want a jury made up of folks lacking in knowledge and critical reasoning skills, that seems like exactly the sort of jury that would serve the truth best.

All that said, I intend to respond to the summons and do my moral duty. While I have almost no faith in the political system and just a little in the legal system, I do have faith in my own ethics. As such, I believe that I owe the folks in the trial my best and that is what I will give them as a fellow citizen and human being. Yeah, I bitch a lot and then do the right thing anyway.

Tagged with: , ,