Skip to main content

Improving Juror Response Rates- By Carrot or Stick


Have you been called to serve jury duty lately? Did you heed your summons and perform your civil duty? In many areas, if your jury summons got lost in the mail, was eaten by the dog, or simply forgotten, there’s a good chance no consequence will come from your lapse. In some Texas counties, however, this is changing. This week, Texas Lawyer reported that Dallas County is changing its tune when it comes to no-show jurors. Dallas County began a Jury Services Court pilot program in response to jury turnout rates as low as 20%. Jurors who don’t respond to their jury summons may be sent a notice summoning them to Jury Services Court, which is presided over by Judge Gena Slaughter of the 191st District Court. Once they appear, the jurors may explain their absence, and reschedule their date for jury service. If jurors do not appear on the rescheduled date, a show cause contempt order is issued, and if not responded to, a warrant may be issued for their arrest and fines may be imposed. Texas Government Code § 62.0141 governs the penalty for failure to answer a jury summons, which punishes both non-compliance with a summons or the provision of false information to be excused from jury service with fines up to $1,000. 

The Dallas County program is modeled after El Paso County’s Jury Duty Court that began operations in 2005. During the 2010 fiscal year, the El Paso County District Clerk collected more than $300,000 in jury contempt fees and fines, largely due to professionals like doctors and lawyers who choose to pay the maximum fine to avoid jury duty, according to a Dallas Morning News report. The El Paso program has led to a jury yield of 80%, according to Dallas County Jury Services Manager, M. Anne Brabham.

Despite these enforcement mechanisms, a primary reason that potential jurors do not respond to summonses is the financial sacrifice jury service can entail. Texas law does not require employers to pay employees taking off work to perform jury duty, and a study in 2000 provided evidence that poor compensation is a significant factor in non-participation in jury service (See, Ted M. Eades, Revisiting the Jury System in Texas: A Study of the Jury Pool in Dallas County, 54 SMU L. Rev. 1813, 1826 (2001)). The study found that financial reasons for non-participation had a disparate impact on racial minorities, especially Hispanic Americans. Though some counties, like Dallas, have raised jury pay to $40 per day, most Texas counties have not.
The effect of non-participation can have more than personal consequences; in the aggregate it contributes to the erosion of one of our most valuable freedoms as citizens. The Sixth Amendment requires jury venires to reflect representative cross sections of the community and a 20% participation rate is unlikely to provide such representation. Continued low public participation rates may lead to constitutional challenges, even without evidence of intentional discrimination.  As Alexander Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers, the right to a jury trial is a “valuable safeguard to liberty,” and essential to a free and democratic society. Whether jury participation is increased by stronger enforcement mechanisms, increased compensation, or more efforts to educate about the importance of juries, it is essential that Texas courts continue to work towards improving participation rates.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Legal Research AI Gains Venture Capital

The legal research company Casetext has announced that it has acquired $12 million in venture capital to expand on its CARA ("Case Analysis Research Assistant") AI software, a virtual research assistant currently capable of scanning a legal brief and retrieving cases relevant to but not cited in the brief.

CARA is not alone in the world of legal AIs.  When it was created last year, it joined the ranks of AIs including ROSS, an IBM Watson-based legal research AI, DoNotPay, a website founded in 2015 to automate the preparation of parking ticket appeals, and an amateur AI judge capable of predicting European Court of Human Rights decisions with 79% accuracy.

The Congressional Report on the Executive Authority to Exclude Aliens Released Days Before Immigration Ban

On January 27 President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order, Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States. Four days earlier, on January 24, the Congressional Research Service released its own report:  Executive Authority to Exclude Aliens: In Brief.
To those unfamiliar, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) is a federal legislative branch agency, housed inside the Library of Congress, charged with providing the United States Congress non-partisan advice on issues that may come before Congress, including immigration.
Included in the report are in-depth discussions on the operation of sections of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) in the context of the executive power . Discussions of sections 212(f),  214(a)(1) and 215(a)(1) report on how the sections have been used by Presidents, along with relevant case law and precedents. Most interesting is the list of executive orders excluding some groups of aliens during past presidencies; the table all…