Avoiding Jury Duty Has Costs

by Flickr user Robert Couse-Baker

by Flickr user Robert Couse-Baker

When Tina Keller asked her boyfriend to complete and return her jury summons form, she didn’t expect his responses would lead to a citation for contempt.  But when he submitted the form, filled with “intentionally disrespectful” responses, they both found themselves in court answering to a judge.  While most people probably wouldn’t answer their call for jury duty with overt sarcasm, many people do try to avoid serving if they can.

The AJC estimates that in Fulton County in 2011, about 56,000 of those called for jury duty didn’t even respond to their summons.  This lead to a county wide juror no-show rate of 50% that year.  Such an inadequate jury pool can lead to trial delays, wasting court hours trying to fill jury boxes and taxpayer expense.  Indeed, in the first three months of 2011, juror no-shows cost Fulton County taxpayers about $270,000.

To try to curb this problem, some Georgia counties try to contact non-responsive jurors by phone or by sending sheriff’s deputies to the juror’s home.  Regardless of whether the county gets a hold of you, not responding to jury duty can result in contempt charges that include jail time and monetary fines.

If you are called for jury duty, be sure to respond to the summons honestly and completely and by the date listed on the summons.  Exemptions and deferments may be available depending on your situation.  To find out if you qualify for these, contact the court and ask for Juror Services or visit the court’s website for more information.  These resources can also provide helpful  information such as where to park and what to wear to court.

Jurors are an indispensable part of the American justice system.  In a criminal case, your decision could have great consequences on the accused, the victim and the community.  In a civil case, the parties are putting the power to solve a dispute they cannot resolve themselves into your hands.   By conducting yourself with honesty, seriousness and timeliness, you can help the court system work efficiently and help yourself avoid contempt charges.


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