Have you received a call from someone who threatens you with going to jail for not showing up for jury service? He says he’s from the U.S. Marshall’s Office, gives his badge number, mentions the name of the judge who told him to call you, and even has the Tarrant or Dallas Courthouse listed on caller ID. The victim is told he must pay a huge fine immediately and some people do. One woman paid the fraudsters $2,000. That’s terrible to hear. But it’s a scam.
I’ve been a personal injury attorney in Texas for 36 years and have tremendous respect for our civil justice system and the jurors who are the backbone of this essential process. This rip-off angers me.
If you do receive one of these calls, report the incident to the U.S. Marshals Service to stop these horrible scammers from victimizing anybody else.
Can You Go to Jail for Missing Jury Duty?
Our effective court system can only function when citizens serve as jurors to decide whether an injured person has proven his case for damages or the prosecution has proven the guilt of someone accused of a crime. Missing jury duty interferes with this important system and can land you in trouble.
But can you be arrested or ordered to pay a fine? Technically yes, but a judge would order penalties only in the most egregious cases, like the 20-year old man who left moments after checking in for duty here at the Tarrant County Courthouse and had spent the previous months making countless unsubstantiated excuses or not showing up at all.
Why Jury Duty Matters
The jury is vital to our American judicial system. It is a right guaranteed in the Sixth and Seventh Amendments as well as in the Texas Constitution. Thomas Jefferson wrote that “I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.”
It is certainly not fun. First, you spend time sitting around waiting to be called. Then you are questioned to find out if you are qualified to serve. If you are chosen, you have to listen to often tedious testimony for at least one day and longer if you are chosen for a complicated case. And for all your troubles, you are paid the measly sum of $6 for the first day and $40 dollars for every day you serve thereafter.
To avoid this trouble, why can’t the attorneys just ask any 6 to 12 people to serve? The U.S. Constitution requires that jury pools be impartial, which has been construed by the courts to mean a cross-section of the community. To meet this constitutional mandate, citizens are randomly selected to enter the pool.
Once inside the courtroom, the judge and attorneys on both sides have the opportunity to ask the potential jurors questions to empanel an unbiased jury. Any number of jurors may be released for cause, such as the juror is biased for or against the claim. Attorneys may also strike a certain number of jurors for no reason, referred to as a peremptory challenge. A juror cannot be rejected on the basis of race, gender, or other reasons.
If you have been picked to serve on a jury, more information is here.
I’ve been summoned for jury duty in June and hope to be picked this time so I can see a trial from the jury’s eyes and learn how to present a more effective case on behalf of my clients.