It came in the mail. The dreaded jury summons. I had been called for jury duty at the Superior Court in Flemington. This was the third time in twenty years. Not a big deal.
What came to mind were the comments about jury duty I have heard over the years from friends and clients. “Only the stupid people who don’t know how to out of jury duty are the ones hearing cases.” “I’ll just stand up and tell the judge the guy looks guilty to me!” And, my favorite, “I’ll lose too much money over this nonsense!” or “I don’t have the time for this!”
Allow me to get on my high horse. I am not sympathetic, at all. My advice: Grow Up. It’s why they call it “Jury duty”. If you want to live in a free society, and have a good life, you need to play your part for the benefit of the community.
Now don’t let your eyes glaze over. Listen up.
Believe it or not, there are people accused of crimes that are innocent, or not as guilty as charged by the authorities. There are people being sued for outrageous sums of money who should not have been sued at all. You know this instinctively. It’s human nature. If you are one of those defendants, do you want your case decided by a government bureaucrat (no, not a judge, a bureaucrat; see below), or, do you want it decided by people in your community who live the life you do, who know what it’s like to earn a living, keep a family together, and deal with all of the other matters which intrude into our lives?
What do you see in government? Do you see officials looking out for truth, doing the right thing and the American Way? Or, do you see decisions made on the basis of politics, convenience and power? I’ll bet it’s the latter. I am not saying that the courts today are corrupt or that decisions are made for political reasons. But, without the jury system as a check, the political authorities will have an ill effect upon the dispensation of justice in the courts. If you are not there, they will be.
Our Founders knew this about government. They saw government take away the right of trial by jury in colonial times. They saw people put in jail for political convenience. We’ve seen it since that time. This is why they put the right to a jury trial in the Federal Constitution. Without it, the justice system becomes a tool of the government for whatever political cause it deems “correct”. If you don’t think this could possibly happen here, you are wrong.
Bad trends in government usually don’t happen all at once. They happen a little at a time. For example, we citizens of New Jersey did not vote often enough in school elections. So, for some years now, unless a proposed budget exceeds a certain capped percentage, there is no longer a vote on the school budget. When this happened, not a peep was heard, and I’ll bet many of you didn’t even know your right to vote had been taken away from you. There are now those who want to remove locally appointed judges on the municipal court level. They are to be replaced with bureaucrats appointed by Trenton. We may live to see it.
Jury duty? You’d better believe that there are those who would like to do away with juries, at least in some situations, at first. I have always thought that those charged with Driving Under the Influence should get a jury trial. The penalties are that stringent. Jail is a certainty in some situations. But, you see, it would be too inconvenient and would tie up the system. No jury trial.
When you are called for jury duty, do it. It is a sacrifice, but do it. There are many obligations and duties in a free society. Less so in a country like North Korea, where they give you only one duty.