The article below examines the financial challenges of being a juror on a case that lasts for an extended amount of time. The net result is that you have certain people who just can't serve because of the financial hit they will receive. This in turn leads many juries to be made up of either very old people who have retired or young people who have yet to begin their careers.
I thought the article below would serve as a good contrast to Sunday's post on the NJ bill that allows citizens to volunteer for jury service. Apparently, the sheriff in Eau Claire, WI has resorted to rounding up people on the street to ensure that enough jurors were available to hear a case. If local citizens answered "yes" to the following questions they were directed to report to the local courthouse or taken their personally by the sheriff.
1. Are you an Eau Claire County resident? 2. Are you at least 18 years of age? 3. Do you have any history of a felony conviction?
In Rogers v. Bromac Title Services, a three judge panel from the 5th Circuit upheld the trial judge's decision to dismiss the plaintiff's wrongful termination claim pursuant to the Jury System Improvement Act ("JSIA"), 28 USC 1875.
In this case, plaintiff, a closing officer, sued her former employer (real estate company) for violating 28 USC 1875 ("No employer shall discharge, threaten to discharge, intimidate, or coerce any permanent employee by reason of such employee's jury service, or the attendance or scheduled attendance in connection with such service, in any court of the United States.")
Plaintiff alleges that she was terminated from Bromac because of her service as a grand juror which required her to miss numerous work days. Defendant claims that plaintiff was terminated for making two offcolor remarks at important meetings. Defendant moved for summary judgment and it was granted. Plaintiff filed a timely appeal.
Plaintiff's first offcolor comment, which occured on August 31, 2011 during a meeting with real estate agents, was as follows: [r]aise your hand if you have had unprotected sex.
Plaintiff's second offcolor comment, which occured on April 18, 2012, again during a meeting, was as follows: [y]ou guys know you are always welcome to call me after hours or on weekends. I always answer my phone unless I'm drinking.
2 days after this second comment plaintiff was fired. She had been on the job since April 29, 2009. Rogers grand jury service had initially run from Aug 22, 2011 to Feb. 19, 2012; however, it was extended to August 19, 2012.
In upholding the trial court's dismissal of plaintiff's claim, the three judge panel determined that with claims arising under the JSIA, the plaintiff must prove that she would not have been subjected to the adverse employment action but-for her jury service. The panel then determined that the evidence presented by plaintiff was not enough to create a genuine material issue of fact that the reasons (her inappropriate statements in two important meetings) offered by the defendant were pre-textual.
Attorney Norm Pattis who blogs at pattisblog.com has written an excellent op-ed on the importance of jury duty. In examining why some would-be jurors avoid service, Pattis discusses the financial burdern that jury service poses for some. He suggests that employers do more in the way of compensating employees who miss work for jury duty. Another potential option, one employed in Britain, is jury insurance. For a prior post on jury insurance go here.
The Indianapolis Star is reporting that a local doctor has been criminally charged with interference with jury service for firing an employee who missed work because of jury duty. The interference with jury service statute, which carries a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, reads as follows:
A person who knowingly or intentionally: (1) dismisses his employee; (2) deprives his employee of employment benefits; or (3) threatens such a dismissal or deprivation; because the employee has received or responded to a summons, served as a juror, or attended court for prospective jury service commits interference with jury service, a Class B misdemeanor.
According to the charging instrument, the former employee told his employer that he may be on jury duty for 2-3 weeks. The following day the juror's employer fired the employee claiming that they were “eliminating his employment due to volume.”
If you are going to lie to the judge in order to avoid jury duty, it is probably not a good idea to brag about it on the radio. As discussed in the article below, a prospective juror in Denver, who appeared in court with mismatched shoes, curlers and smeared lipstick on her face, lied to a judge about having a mental illness in order to be excused from jury duty. Her lie was later uncovered when the judge heard a radio talk show in which this same juror bragged about faking PTSD in order to get out of serving on a jury. The judge tracked down the juror who was ultimately charged and convicted of perjury and attempting to influence a public official. The prospective juror was sentenced to probation and community service.
Interestingly, most people, like this prospective juror, dread jury duty because of stories they hear about it. But, after serving, most are happy about their experience.
With those words, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina ended her orientation for 20 jurors – 9 women and 11 men – who Monday began hearing what could be up to three months of testimony in the trial of a church official and priest involving the clergy sex-abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Not television? That’s an understatement.
It’s not just a reality check for jurors. Judges don’t bang gavels to open and close court sessions and most people understand that TV, movies and theater alter reality for dramatic effect.
For jurors, the trial is a crash course in logic and philosophy: learning to live according to a new reality that exists only in a courtroom and has its own language and rules of behavior.
Want to learn the philosopher’s trick of holding two opposing thoughts at the same time? Jurors are told repeatedly that they “are the judge of the facts” and that only their individual, and ultimately collective, memory of testimony and evidence establishes those facts.
Yet the courtroom combatants – prosecution and defense lawyers – will argue with passion and rhetoric that the jury should accept their interpretation of the facts. And then the judge will remind the jurors again that nothing the lawyers and the judge say is evidence, that only the jurors may determine the evidence...to continue reading go here.
This is the issue facing the trial judge handling the perjury case of Jon Burge. Mr Burge, a former Chicago Police Officer, is accused of lying about alleged abuse and torture of suspects by himself and detectives under his command. Jury selection for his trial started this week.
Mr. Burge's attorneys have been and continue to ask for a change of venue for their client. The most recent request was due to a planned rally by victims of Mr. Burge and his men. According to the defense, "[b]ecause the rally will incite great prejudice against Jon Burge in the community from which the jury is to be drawn, the only fair remedy is to change the venue..."
For more information about the jury selection for Mr. Burge's trial see the following articles: