Jury Duty: An Onerous Obligation?

April 2nd, 2010 by Kathy McManus

A concern over jury duty creating “financial hardship.”

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

If jury duty creates “financial hardship,” should you still have a responsibility to serve?

The L.A. Times reports that “jurors are becoming disgruntled” because of “money woes inflicted by the recession,” and are increasingly refusing to jeopardize job pay for L.A. County’s $15-a-day jury duty wages.

Reporter Carol J. Williams says such “reluctant jurors” are having an effect on justice. In a recent case, a juror forced to serve after his financial hardship dismissal request had been denied began denigrating a plaintiff from the jury box. A second juror — also unsuccessful in getting dismissed — joined in. The outbursts “emboldened others in the jury pool to express disdain for the case and concerns about their ability to be fair,” Williams writes, as well as to “ratchet up the pathos in their claims of facing economic ruin if forced to sit for the three-week trial.”

The plaintiff’s attorney termed the jurors “scary” and “too volatile” to be trusted. After three days of “mounting insurrection,” lawyers for both sides agreed to scrap the jury trial and leave the verdict to the judge. Paraphrasing a jury consultant, Williams argues that “it’s risky to force people into jury service that will cut deeply into their paychecks.”

Tell us what you think: In a bad economy, should jury duty be optional? Does recession trump civic duty?