Jury Service Reform
(Last updated February 20, 2005)
Ironically, despite Americans' patriotism and strong support for their jury system, many appear to avoid serving.
To remedy this, there are efforts underway to reform jury service by breaking down barriers and eliminating loopholes so all citizens can fulfill their civic obligation.
The barriers being addressed by such reforms typically include:
· Length of service
· Lack of employment protection
· Insufficient compensation
The loopholes being addressed by such reforms include:
· Automatic exemptions of some professions
· Inadequate penalties for no-shows
· Overuse of "hardship excuses"
While the above are admirable goals, it is important the system remain compassionate and not become anti-family.
A democracy should never infringe upon a child's individual liberty by taking away mommy for jury service!
Any "Family Friendly" jury service reform model legislation act must contain an OPTION to allow a full-time mother to DEFER her service until her child is older.
Unfortunately, one popular jury service reform effort, the A.L.E.C. (American Legislative Exchange Council) “Jury Patriotism Act” model legislation does not pass this test, and would encourage more mistreatment of caregivers, of the kind described in the “ Hall of Shame”.
In paragraph b.3. (a) of Section 4, Excuses From Petit Jury Service, the Jury Patriotism Act explains “undue or extreme physical or financial hardship” as being “required to abandon a person under his or her personal care or supervision due to the impossibility of obtaining an appropriate substitute caregiver…”
“Impossibility” is a very strong word.
It is so rigid that it would FORCE an at-home mother to place her young child in a day-care institution in order to serve the STATE! This smacks of Totalitarianism, not ALEC’s Jeffersonian ideals!
In states that have enacted ALEC’s model Jury Patriotism Act, “There have been unintended consequences of the new law” and “Arizona legislators have introduced at least 5 bills this year to modify (their) 2003 law.”
The Arizona Republic, “Elderly may get break on jury service”, dated 19 February 2005
Newsday.com, “Arizona Revisits the Jury Patriotism Act”, 11 February 2005
to view model family friendly jury duty legislation