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February 26, 1993 - Image 39

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1993-02-26

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Jury Duty Is Not A Choice;
It's The Law

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Flo you think politicians
today spend too much
time bickering over
ending legislation? Try
envision the arguments
at took place in 1791,
e year of the passage of
e Bill of Rights.
Political personalities at
he time were strong,
mong them President
eorge Washington, Vice
resident John Adams,
ecretary of State Thomas
Jefferson, and James
Madison (fourth presi-
tent) and Alexander
amilton, the duo who
rote The Federalist to
id the campaign to ratify
he Constitution.
Though they debated
any of these amend-
ents, the forefathers
greed they needed to
pprove the Sixth Amend-
ent, which provides
ccused criminals the
'ght to a speedy trial by a
ury of peers.
These forefathers laid
he groundwork for the
ne avenue of public ser-
ice many Americans take
for granted: jury duty.
And it is likely that each
egistered driver and
oter in Michigan at some
oint will be summoned to
serve on a jury in district,
circuit or federal court.
Though many of those
who receive notice try to
get out of jury duty,
excuses rarely hold up.
By writing a letter to
the court, you may be able
to defer service. But
chances are that once your
name is pulled from the
pool, you will be called
again within the next few
months. You may prolong
service, but you can't get
out of it without a good
excuse ā€” handicap, living
in a nursing home, bed-
ridden.
"It's a state law. It is a
federal law," says 48th
District Judge Ed
Avadenka. "You must
serve. I got called for jury
duty. I went. But no attor-
ney wanted a judge on the
jury." .
Adam Baker, a Birming-

ham attorney, has given
much thought to the role
of a jury in the United
States.
"What if you were on
trial whether you were
rightly or wrongly accused
of a crime? Who would you
want to serve on your
jury?" Mr. Baker asks.
"I'm sure you wouldn't
want people trying to get
out of it because it was an
imposition or because tim-
ing was bad."
Judges and trial attor-
neys are inundated with
excuses from people who
do not want to serve on a
jury. Some worry about
missing work, others fear
they will lose sales corn-
missions, some caregivers
wonder who will watch
their young children.
"They protest all the
time," says Federal Judge
Bernard Friedman of the
Eastern District of Mich-

Bernard A. Friedman

igan. "I explain to them
that not only do they have
a civic duty, but also that
it is very interesting.
"On the first day, they
are kvetching like crazy,"
Judge Friedman said.
"But after they get over
the initial shock of miss-
ing work, they love it."
Oakland Circuit Court
Judge Edward Sosnick's
sister once asked him how
to get thrown off a jury.
He gave her some advice.
She served; and she
enjoyed it.

"It is a privilege to
live in a place that has
juries. Otherwise, the con-
sequences for a society
without this system would
be grim," he said.
"We make it clear when
we call in our prospective
jurors that during peace-
time, this country doesn't
ask much. The only thing
asked is to pay taxes and
do jury duty."
Jurors for district and
circuit courts are drawn
through a lottery system
based on driver's license
records. For federal court,
juries are selected through
a combined system ā€”
based on voter and dri-
ver's license registration
lists.
In criminal cases, juries
comprise 12 men and
women. Some civil cases
are made up of six jurors.
As a juror, your job is to
listen to all of the facts of
the case and render a
decision of innocent or
guilty. Judges will further
instruct the jurors.
Jurors are advised not
to discuss a case with any-
one until the trial is over
and the verdict is ren-
dered. Otherwise, they
could be held in contempt
of court, which could
result in a fine or jail
time.
Oakland County Assis-
tant Prosecutor Lisa Ribo
has selected several
juries. She wants you to
serve if you want to.
"Some have attitudes
and some don't," Ms. Ribo
said. "Some come into the
jury room thinking they
really don't want to be
there and leave feeling
rewarded. I hear a lot of
that.
"But if someone is giv-
ing me signals that he
does not want to serve, I
am likely to use one of my
peremptory challenges
(lawyers can remove a cer-
tain number of jurors with
no reason) to get that per-
son off the jury. He or she
may not listen to the testi-
mony."
Ms. Ribo added that the

fi

juror with a poor
attitude is a rarity.
Jury duty, she said, is
the only area of govern-
ment in which the lay per-
son can make a contribu-
tion that makes an imme-
diate difference.
Southfield attorney Jay
Schreier hasn't selected
many juries during his
career. But he did serve
on a jury in 1990. He also
was selected the jury fore-
man.

Edward Sosnick

The case came before a
judge in Oakland Circuit
Court. The subject: crimi-
nal prosecution of a man
who allegedly broke into a
newspaper box and took a
paper ā€” a felony charge.
"He was acquitted," Mr.
Schreier said. "I think the
guy did it, but based on
the instructions of the
judge and the facts of the
case, the prosecutor did
not meet the burden of
proof.
"I felt like I was doing a
service, and also some-
thing that was of benefit
to me," Mr. Schreier said.
"I would do it again."
What if you fail to
appear for jury duty?
First, you will receive a
show cause notice. So you
still need to go to court to
ask the judge not to hold
you in contempt, a misde-
meanor which can result
in a fine and/or 90 days
in jail.

Failure
to respond to a show cause
surely will bring a bench
warrant, also a misde-
meanor charge. Judge
Avadenka said he has
never thrown someone in
jail for failing to show up
for jury duty.
Jury Coordinator Carol
Doddard of the 48th
District Court said the
numbers of no-shows has
increased over the past
few years. Many have
moved; others act like jury
duty is a large imposition.
"I just tell them it is an
obligation," Ms. Doddard
said. "They can defer it,
but sooner or later, they
will have to come in."
Michigan law states
that residents must serve
on jury duty in the state
court system no more than
once a year. The federal
system works a little dif-
ferently. You can be
excused from federal jury
duty if you are called more
than once over a two-year
period.
From the same lists
from which federal juries
are selected, a few will be
called to serve on a feder-
al grand jury, which meets
periodically over a six-
month period.
The special grand jury
decides whether a crime
was committed, and
whether probable cause
exists to charge a person
with a crime. This four-
person group, selected by
a federal judge, also has
subpoena powers.
In most cases, you
needn't worry about time.
In Oakland County
Circuit Court, trials rarely
last more than two days.
District court is the same.
And 95 percent of the
cases filed are settled out
of court. Federal trials
could be lengthier.
"They can go a long
time," Judge Friedman
said. "I've had trials go as
long as three months, but
the norm is five to seven
trial days." 0

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