Legal-Ease: Skipped jury duty hurts each of us eventually

I have not read all of the reports or watched all of the public service announcements recently made concerning the increase in the number of jury duty no-shows.

Let’s be honest, the inconvenience of jury duty can be frustrating and sometimes precludes important parental or work responsibilities. The pay is nearly non-existent, and a call to appear for jury duty might ultimately prove to be a boring wait to see if you are even needed that day/week.

However, simply being called for jury duty does not mean you will be a juror. Judges sometimes give you a pass on showing up if you ask in advance and have a legitimate reason. For example, if you have an irreplaceable public safety job or are a single parent with toddlers who would be home alone if you were required to appear, judges sometimes forgive attendance.

Importantly, you do not need to be an attorney or have any fancy education to be a juror. Judges decide what the law is in a case. Jurors are only asked to determine the facts (what actually happened).

For example, in a simple car accident, if the accident participants disagree over who is responsible for the accident, there could be a trial. Jurors might be asked to determine which car at the accident intersection’s stoplight had a green light. The jury would decide that fact. However, whether the traffic light itself is legal is determined by the judge.

Also, if you struggle to read, have no fear. Literally figuring out what a written contract means should be a factual determination for jurors to decide (as explained above), but our legal system takes that burden off jurors’ shoulders and makes judges responsible to interpret written documents.

Several years ago, a close friend of mine was accused of a horrific crime. Upon the criminal charges being filed, my friend immediately lost his job. But the law provided that if my friend was ultimately found not guilty of the alleged crimes, my friend could get his job back.

On the day of my friend’s trial, too few qualified jurors showed up. With too few jurors, the trial was necessarily postponed.

Several weeks later, once enough qualified jurors were found, my friend’s trial started. My friend was found not guilty within hours of the trial’s conclusion.

However, the delayed trial contributed to my friend missing the deadline date for my friend to apply get his job back (or be compensated for his wrongful termination).

Consequently, we would likely never miss a call to jury duty after we have a family member or friend wrongfully accused of a crime or who becomes the victim of a crime. Similarly, after someone does us wrong so significantly that we are forced to file a lawsuit, we come to more fully understand and appreciate the need for each of us to take our turn for jury duty. We cannot expect jurors to be there for us someday if we are not showing up for jury duty ourselves right now.

Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at [email protected] or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.