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Study: San Antonians Ignoring Jury Duty Summonses

By July 7, 2014July 14th, 2014No Comments

VIA WOAI San Antonio

Rich and poor, young and old, Republican and Democrat, regardless of ethnic or racial background, there is one thing that unites all of us after all. Newsradio 1200 WOAI reports a new study by the Texas Chapter of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse reports we all hate jury duty.

In fact, the report concludes that ‘low rates of jury service participation is a widespread problem in Texas.

“People certainly in Texas feel that serving on a jury is important,” CALA spokeswoman Jennifer Harris told Newsradio 1200 WOAI. “They will say that when surveyed, but what they get that summons in the mail and it comes time to show up in the courtroom, they’re just not doing it.”

In fact, despite the almost comical dire warnings printed on jury summonses about what horrible things will happen to you if you ignore it, CALA statistics show that only 28.5% of Bexar County residents who received a jury summons in 2013 actually showed up at the courthouse.

That’s down from 30.7% in 2012.

“It takes too long, I hate being away from work, I have other things that I would rather be doing than sitting in an empanelling process or in a courtroom.”

But Bexar County is actually one of the better counties of the 13 surveyed. In Montgomery County, which is in suburban Houston, only 14% of those summoned showed up for jury service. In Harris County, the turnout was 26%.

Harris says a robust turnout of solid, middle class employed people is critical to reining in the junk lawsuits which jack up the cost of goods and services, and make some items unavailable, due to the high cost of liability insurance.

Harris says it’s interesting that Cameron County, in the Rio Grande Valley, has the highest jury participation rate in the state, at 73%.

She points out that the Valley has long been seen by unscrupulous lawyers as a ‘dumping ground’ for sleazy cases, and citizens realize that they have the ability to stop that.

“I think they are more sensitive and aware of the impacts they can have by serving on a jury, and being a part of the civil justice system,” Harris said.

Febe Zepeda of Rio Grande Valley Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse Agreed.

“Texans need to appreciate the important role jurors play in our civil justice system,” Zepeda said. “By returning an impartial verdict, jurors make sure our courts are used for justice, not greed.”

Harris says CALA will now determine the main reasons why Texans skip jury service.

But a random survey of people in the Central Jury Room at the Bexar County Courthouse by Newsradio 1200 WOAI elicited complaints that citizens were being ‘disrespected’ by the process.

“They make you come down here at 8AM, they don’t call you, they don’t tell you what’s going on, then you have to go to a hallway in the courthouse and stand there for hours and again they give you no information about what is going on,” one prospective juror said.

Others said the jury selection process was ‘typical government,’ which is ‘stuck in the fifties’ because it doesn’t have to adapt to the changing schedules of citizens. They suggested greater use of text messaging and e-mail to summon jurors only when they are needed by judges, to prevent the aimless sitting around that symbolizes jury service.

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