This week, I would like to republish an article first published in the San Francisco Examiner on July 30, 2015. Unfortunately, this is a question I hear all too often and my answer today is the same.
This week’s question comes from Bryan L. in Oakland, who writes:
Q: “How do I get out of jury duty.”
A: Dear Bryan: seriously, shame on you. Simple answer, DON’T.
One sure way to get out of being on a jury is to be a criminal defendant. Then you don’t have to sit on a jury and, at the same time, you will hope to God that you will have a group of people who didn’t try and evade their civic responsibility and are willing to sit and fairly hear your case and defense. Another way is become a convicted felon and be deprived of your constitutional rights such as bearing arms, being free from unlawful search and seizure, and the ability to sit on a jury or vote.
The original founders, who fought and died for our independence called the right to a jury a: “A sacred right” …. “the most important privilege which freemen can enjoy”. The deprivation of a right to jury trials was one of the main grievances leading to the Revolutionary War. This right is listed in the Magna Carta,the Declaration of Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms (1775) and the Declaration of Independence (1776). So, jury service is not a hassle, it is a sacred duty people died for. It is part of what we are fighting to establish all over the world with our armed forces.
The United States Constitution, in the Sixth Amendment (Part of the Bill of Rights) proclaims; “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.”
The California Constitution Article 1, Sec. 16. states “Trial by jury is an inviolate right and shall be secured to all, but in a civil cause three-fourths of the jury may render a verdict. A jury may be waived in a criminal cause by the consent of both parties expressed in open court by the defendant and the defendant’s counsel. In a civil cause a jury may be waived by the consent of the parties expressed as prescribed by statute. In civil causes the jury shall consist of 12 persons… .” In criminal actions in which a felony is charged, the jury shall consist of 12 persons, in misdemeanor cases the parties can agree to a lesser number.
The California Legislature has proclaimed; “The Legislature recognizes that trial by jury is a cherished constitutional right, and that jury service is an obligation of citizenship. It is the policy of the State of California that all persons selected for jury service shall be selected at random from the population of the area served by the court; that all qualified persons have an equal opportunity, in accordance with this chapter, to be considered for jury service in the state and an obligation to serve as jurors when summoned for that purpose; and that it is the responsibility of jury commissioners to manage all jury systems in an efficient, equitable, and cost-effective manner.”
As a trial lawyer who brings cases on behalf of his injured clients in front of juries, I can tell you that jury service is the purest form of democracy that exists on this planet. It is part of a process where 12 people decide what the community standards will be, whether rights will be bestowed or taken away. All juries that I have appeared in front of felt proud and patriotic after serving on a jury. So you should try it before the day that maybe your rights may be taken from you without a trial by your peers.
So lets all of us, be patriotic Americans and serve our country by responding to our summons for jury duty when called upon. Help bring fairness and justice to our troubled world.
Christopher B. Dolan is the owner of the Dolan Law Firm. Email Chris questions and topics for future articles to firstname.lastname@example.org