HONOR OF JURY SERVICE Most of the time, getting a summons for jury service in the mail does not produce feelings of happiness or excitement. We live in the busiest society in the history of the world. Serving on a jury means that there is a possibility of leaving jobs, children, grandchildren, and other personal activities for a week or more. In Georgia, we do have exceptions for some people that will relieve them of service. For example, (1) jurors who are 70 years of age or older or (2) primary caregivers to very young children can be excuse from serving on a jury panel. For most other jurors, there is the real prospect of leaving everything behind for days or weeks to hear about a case that you probably know nothing about and may not care about. Jurors are also subjected to listening to lengthy witnesses and lawyers. Additionally, in some cases, jurors must view extremely disturbing evidence that can never be “unseen.” However, jury service is also a great honor. Since the late 1700’s, Americans have fought and died to protect the United States, which is governed by the Constitution. The right to a jury trial is one of those freedoms enshrined in the Constitution. Our system of justice is unique in the world. The right to a jury trial separates us from historical nightmares like Soviet Russia, the Third German Reich, and Apartheid South Africa. Despite world criticism, the United States of America has the fairest judicial system on Earth. While we need to make changes to fix many aspects of our system, the shining aspect of American justice is the jury. Let’s imagine what our judicial system would be like if there were no jurors: 1. In criminal cases, the backlog of the dockets would begin immediately. Defendants would not have the opportunity to have 12 peers decide their fate. Instead, one judge would decide guilt and innocence. With this prospect, our jails, calendars, and the administration of justice would come to a standstill.
2. In civil cases, mediations would be less effective. Parties in civil suits would stall and tailor their case based on the judge who would be deciding the case. This would further clog dockets that are already full. The bottom line is that even the prospect of jury trials moves our system along in the most judicious, fair, and efficient manner; even when the jury is not actually hearing a case. Some folks have suggested the idea of having “professional jurors” who are paid an annual salary to hear cases across the state. While this may sound like a good idea on its face, this would result in disaster. Besides being unconstitutional, professional jurors would become like judges. Their verdicts and leanings would become very well known to the community. The idea of fairness and peer judgment would vanish. The juror does not only assist in deciding a case. The juror takes an active role in seeing that the United States Constitution is in working order. I thank all of those who have honorably sacrificed by serving as jurors. Our jury system may not be perfect. However, jury trials and the prospect of jury trials are the best way that humans can administer justice in a civilized society.