Jury Duty and the failing judicial system

The Jury is a group of individuals that decide the fate of a trial. They are present in the court room next to the Judge and the parties involved in the lawsuit address their issues to the Judge and the Jury. The Jury is present in each hearing of the case and at the end, meet in a closed room to discuss the entire trial and cast a vote of “Guilty” or “Not Guilty”. The votes are then written on a paper and handed to the Judge. The Judge then announces the decision based on the votes of the Jury.

Many countries use this system, the United States being the focus of the issue. Jury Duty in the United States is mandatory and if a person does not show up for Jury summons, the person would have to pay thousands of dollars in fine and serve jail time. If the person is unable to attend due to medical or other emergencies, the issue must be documented (with doctor’s note for medical cases) and submitted to request for exemption. So Jury Duty cannot be escaped.

What if employers prevent employees from taking on Jury Duty (as it could last from weeks to months — depending on the trial)? Federal law prohibits employers from firing employees that cannot attend work due to Jury Duty. This is unpaid time off work for most Americans and some senior management could take this as paid time off. But the employers still encourage employees to try and get out of Jury Duty due to the disruption caused by the uncertain time of absence from work.

So whats the main problem here? The amount of money lost by people on Jury Duty due to not being able to go to work. Most people picked for Jury Duty tend to be in the middle or lower class and live paycheck to paycheck. This means that any time lost from work can have financial hardships. However, the people are paid for Jury Duty. The problem is the amount of money they are paid. In California (state with high cost of living), the people can be paid as little as $15/day when people could be making $15/hour at their jobs. So the people are paid, but not nearly enough to cover the true cost of the time. For $15/day, you can barely buy 2 fast-food meals for 1 person. This means that the people picked for Jury Duty are faced with financial hardships.

What does this have to do with the judicial system? The verdict of the trial rests in the hands of the Jury, and when most people in the Jury are in financial hardship due to being absent from work, they are focused on getting back to work as early as possible and their main goal is not a fair trial. They want to run through the trial, pick a side, and get out of there. They don’t want the trial to drag on as it would increase their financial hardship. Some even change sides from “Guilty” to “Not Guilty” or vice versa, when there’s a tie — just to prevent the discussion from being dragged on.

This presents a clear problem with Jury Duty. People paid a very low amount of money that are missing work causes them to focus on getting out of there and doesn’t align their interests with the intent of a fair trial. The issue is widening as wages slowly increase along with cost of living and inflation, but the amount of money paid to members of the Jury doesn’t increase at the same pace. The trials rest in the hands of the people that really don’t want to be there, are thinking about their financial burden and trying to escape the court room. How can the trial be fair? If this issue is not addressed, the judicial system of the United States can be in jeopardy.