“Be Simon Cowell for a Day!” and Other Catchy New Court System Slogans . . .

I am looking forward to jury service in January and, thus, was not surprised that commenters on my last post expressed a similar level of interest/excitement/desire with respect to jury service.

Clearly, part of my positive feelings about serving has to do with my good fortune at having a job that allows me the freedom to take off a day or two without serious consequences. Many people do not have this luxury and the lowly compensation offered by the court system is simply not enough to make up for missed days of work.

That said, I’m still surprised at the lengths people go to get out of jury service and my sense of general negative sentiments related to serving.

The reason for my wonderment is that Americans seem to love “jury panels” and judging. American Idol. Top Chef. Survivor. America’s Next Top Model. So You Think You Can Dance.

How can we be so willing to spend hours each night watching “reality” panels condemn or reward people and texting in our “votes” and so unwilling to participate in real-life panels?

You might think it was the subject matter, but we love legal dramas. Law and Order. Judge Judy. The Practice. I could go on . . .

Maybe court systems around the country should spend less time lecturing people about how jury service is a duty owed by each citizen and more time emphasizing that jury service can actually be interesting and enjoyable.

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4 Responses

  1. dave hoffman says:

    I don’t think that people who serve on juries have bad experiences (at least, that’s not what the research says) and I don’t think that people don’t want to serve because they fear they will have a bad time. I think they can’t afford it — that their employers won’t give them credit for public service (if they aren’t self-employed) and that as a result serving on a jury takes food off the table. Making the experience more palatable doesn’t have to involve making it seem more fun. It merely requires individuals to be compensated fairly.

  2. Adam Benforado says:

    I haven’t seen the data, but that seems right that people who serve on juries generally have good experiences. I also agree that finding a way to more fairly compensate those who serve is probably the most effective way to decrease jury service evasion.

    Still, my sense is that there are many people out there who could actually afford to serve and nonetheless try to get out of it (that is, they incorrectly believe that it will be far more disruptive to their lives and far less enjoyable than it actually is). For these individuals, rather than appealing to their sense of duty, I think it might be more effective to reframe the experience as a positive one.

  3. JKM says:

    Interesting point. By attempting to make it at least seem more fun, it could easily bring the costs down for some individuals at the margins, even if it does not work for everyone. I can’t think of how it would make anything worse.

    Thus, I agree that there is reason enough to attempt your idea.

  4. Bill Reynolds says:

    I get called for jury duty every other year. I spend a day cramped and uncomfortable in a room where it is difficult even to read. Voir dire is even worse. I am never chosen, in part because I have usually taught someone and in part because lawyers dont want profs judging them again and in part because educated people are not appreciated on juries. If chosen, the trial will be boring–they are slow, lots of bench conferences, etc. Jury duty is not fun.