Jury Duty

Jury Duty

I have jury duty this week and next. When I received the summons to report for jury duty I groaned, but I also felt obliged to serve. Such service is demanded by the state for the common good of our society. Being called for jury duty reminds me of the fact that rights and duties are linked.

As the Catholic tradition sees it, the duty to serve on a jury is an obligation that corresponds to the citizen’s right for a fair trial before a jury of peers. The right to good government is linked to a citizen’s duty to vote, pay taxes, etc.

I was surprised by the number of citizens summoned to the county courthouse—about 150. At orientation, two judges thanked us for our prompt response to the summons for jury duty. These judges explained how having jurors “ready to go” helps them expedite their court dockets because the accused often accept plea bargains when they realize that a judge and jury are prepared to decide their case. Civil cases are often settled because the parties want to avoid the cost of a jury trial.

Part of our orientation was an instructional video recorded in a courtroom right in the county courthouse. The video explained particulars and technical terms we needed to know. Then we waited to see if we would be called. Twenty-two jurors were called for each criminal case and about 16 for each civil case. Actually, by Ohio state law, 12 jurors are required for a criminal case and eight for each civil case. Potential jurors are chosen at random by a computer and then sent to the court room for the voir dire process. The French term means “to speak the truth.” Potential jurors must respond to questions that indicate whether they can be an impartial juror for a specific case. Both the prosecutors and the defense lawyers are allowed to make a certain number of peremptory decisions to exclude potential jurors. They also may make a number of juror exclusions for cause.

Currently I am serving on a jury for a case I am not allowed to discuss.

Serving on a jury is a civic duty and a reminder of the vital citizen responsibility we all have. (See the Catechism of the Catholic Church #1905 to #1948 for the social theory.)

Photo:  Stephen Coburn/PhotoXpress



About the Author

Dan Kroger, O.F.M., a native of Cincinnati, joined the Franciscans in 1967 and was ordained in 1973. He taught high school and served in rural parishes in the Philippines. Dan earned a Ph.D. in Christian ethics at Notre Dame. He also taught at De La Salle University, Manila, until he was assigned to his present post as publisher/CEO at Franciscan Media in 2006.
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=705859676 Carole Singleton Dahlquist

    Thank you for your post about this duty. I was called and seated on a jury about 4 years ago which turned into a month-long civil case where we, the jury, ultimately awarded $8 million to the plaintiff. It was fascinating and I still meet with the friends I made on that jury to this day. I was glad to be a part of seeing justice done.

  • Victor Aguilan

    The Jury system is something I wish we had in the Philippines.

  • AFerguson

    There is a direct link between jury service and the church. At the time of
    the Founding there were no public schools, so civic education centered arose from the church and public institutions like the jury. As Alexis de Tocqueville recognized, juries were akin to public schools to learn the skills of democracy.

    Juries, like churches, are also a space of community connection – a place where all types of people come together with a shared purpose and faith. Be it a religious faith or a constitutional faith, juries and churches were places of citizen participation. America’s strength was built on these kinds of local, democratic, community-oriented organizations. Juries, like churches, still exist as one of the few surviving positive spaces for community participation and civic connection in today’s society.

    For more on this, you can read “Why Jury Duty Matters: A Citizen’s Guide to
    Constitutional Action” (NYU Press, Amazon.com $12). It is the first book written for jurors on jury service.