Who out there has ever been called for Jury Duty? Who has actually been chosen? Who truly enjoyed it?
Jury Duty, like voting (we’ll save that non-contentious topic for after November 2nd!), is a right and obligation tied to the privilege of being an American citizen. Believe it or not, I have always wanted to be selected as a juror in a civil or criminal trial; I thought that it would be both fascinating and perhaps even educational, to sharpen my 33 years of trial skills as a litigator.
Since the mid-March 2020 onset of Covid-19/Pandemic/Quarantine, there has been a Judicial Emergency declared in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. As a result, there has been a cessation of Jury Trials. Our President Judge and other governmental powers recently decided that our area has had enough of “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied.” Thus, both Civil and Criminal Jury Trials are soon returning to The Burgh.
To ensure the safety of potential Jurors, the venire as the Romans used to say, when you get your notice in the mail to report as a potential juror, you will be expected at the spacious David Lawrence Convention Center at the corner of 10th and Penn Avenues Downtown. Only if you are chosen for a Civil Trial would you then show up at the 7th Floor of 414 Grant Street a/k/a the City-County Building. Only if you are one of the lucky 12 (+ 2 alternates) determined to be a potential fair and honest Criminal Trial juror would you have to appear at the 436 Grant Street Historic Landmark known as the County Courthouse.
The concepts of Due Process, Rule 600, Speedy Trials, Civil Case Backlog, etc. have all been forced to be ignored for the sake of the greater good, i.e., the health of our community. Now it is time to get back to a bit of normalcy. If you have a compromised immune system in addition to the usual legitimate excuses (e.g., hearing loss, financial hardship, unrelenting back pain), then by all means seek a deferral from this public duty.
However, if you are able, then please help to make our legal system function rather than being a drag on this vital process at this unprecedented time of need to help our society get back on track. That is a great way to help others in the spirit of “Repairing The World”; if you prefer to do something in your self-interest instead, then know that the facts in many trials are way more attention-grabbing than any Netflix show you can watch while you are stuck at home during this boring economic slowdown. So, on behalf of our judges, injured Plaintiffs, and accused people who could not afford bail — as well as my lawyer colleagues trying to “do justice” — please answer the call for Jury Duty. And lastly, while you are keeping an eye on the mail for a Juror Summons, don’t forget the imminent Election Day because the courts will be closed … so you can VOTE!