Today's Why Guy question comes from Kimberly Morgan in Sutter County: "I'd like to know why — or a reminder if I slept through that in US history — we have to serve jury duty and how excusal rates vary from county to county?"
Ahh, jury duty — everybody's favorite fun thing to do.
Let's address the first question: Why do we serve jury duty? I could explain the complexities of "innocent until proven guilty" and how a a jury helps keep that fair.
But really, the answer is pretty simple. It's our constitutional right.
Now let's talk jury summons. I reached out to six local counties to see what their policies are to make sure you serve when summoned.
"Walt, the courts are no longer county agencies but rather an arm of the State," Beth Gabor, a Yolo County spokesperson, told me.
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Suzanne Thurman, a spokesperson in El Dorado County essentially said the same thing, adding, "Hopefully each county will answer you with the same information. The Superior Court in El Dorado County follows the same statutes and codes all California Superior Courts do."
OK, it's confirmed. The state oversees the county courts.
So here is what's expected of you when summoned. Show up. If you have a valid excuse, tell them. If you just ignore your summons, a judge can fine you $250 for the first offense, $750 for a second and $1,500 for a third or more offenses.
You could also get jail time for dodging jury duty, which, who wants to do that? Luckily, that doesn't happen often, according to Blaine Corren of the State Judicial Council.
"These consequences are rare," Corren said, "as courts prefer to work with individuals on ensuring that they appear for jury service by finding agreeable dates for them to appear or by excusing them from service when their specific circumstances warrant."
So, the worst thing you can do is ignore your jury summons. The jury system will work with you on dates that do work for you or they'll take a legit excuse of hardship that you can't.
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