Jury Duty

Voice Card  -  Volume 19  -  John Card Number 5  -  Mon, Mar 18, 1991 2:09 AM

This is a response to VC 19 Drury 3 ("Poppycock!")...


I think your theory that lawyers prefer under-educated jurors is correct. And I share some of your complaints about the current system.

When I was teaching composition in Salt Lake I was called for Jury Duty and had to go downtown 3 or 4 times before even being interviewed. We were all asked to stand up and give our names and occupations. I stood and said "John Cartan - Graduate Student." Immediately one of the lawyers whispered "too smart" and I was dismissed.

I was also highly annoyed about the way I was summoned. I gather that the procedure varies from city to city; in my case they called the English department shortly before my class was due to start and left a message that I had to come to the courthouse IMMEDIATELY or I would be thrown in jail. Each time this happened I was unable to warn my students or make other arrangements, so all of them showed up to an empty classroom. Thus thirty people were inconvenienced for no reason!

I don't think it would be a good idea to advertise for jurors or ask for volunteers. Every nazi, holy roller and loose nut in the county would apply and the mainstream citizenry would avoid it like the plague. It's important to get a cross-section of the population and the only good way to do that is dip into the list of registered voters (or some similarly broad list).

I also feel that jury duty is one of the obligations of a free people and is really a rather small price to pay. So I don't object at all to being summoned. I just wish city officials could find more reasonable and considerate ways of doing the summoning. Would it really be that hard to give a person a few day's notice?

As for your comment about the difficulty of spotting duds among candidates: no one ever said it was easy. Like you, I have been fooled into voting for someone who later turned into a disapointment. I think all you can do is listen to them, talk to your friends, read up a little, and then take your best shot. You're not expected to be omniscient. And I trust your judgement much more than many of the people currently voting.

Incidentally, I don't buy the argument that "I contributed money to an environmental lobby so I don't have to vote." Why do you think they're raising money in the first place? To get out the vote! Any lobbying group that can influence an election can influence public policy. A lobbying group that cannot influence an election is ignored. Money matters only because money can buy votes. Voting is the bottom line in our system. I say: if you don't care enough about the environment to vote, then you don't care enough about the environment!