In Defense of Jury Duty
We’ve all been there.
You check the mail, minding your own business, and there it is.
A jury summons.
Unfortunately, most people see this as an occasion for eye rolling and immediately begin attempting to finagle their way out of it. But hear us out on this one.
Jury duty shouldn’t be thought of as, well, a duty. A chore carried out begrudgingly, like taking out the trash, only because you have to.
Jury duty, rather, should be considered a privilege. Just like voting, it is one of the most fundamental ways we participate in our government.
When our founding fathers wrote the Constitution, they envisioned everyone taking an active role in making this great, big experiment of the American republic work. Think of it like a start-up company today—young, scrapping, all-hands-on-deck, working together to revolutionize “the way things have always been done.”
You see, they weren’t far removed from a time and place where trials by jury were necessary to protect against government oppression, whether from the crown or a judge or a prosecutor. The existence of jury trials was so absolutely fundamental to the founders’ view of how a model country should work that they included it in the Bill of Rights, their Top 10 must-haves for every American citizen.
But none of it works if you and I don’t hold up our end of the bargain.
You can’t have a jury of your peers if your peers don’t show up to serve. And even though jury service is an interruption of everyday life, it provides an interesting window into the legal system that many of us would never experience otherwise. To see firsthand how a trial is conducted and the dynamics inside a jury room is incredibly powerful, more so than watching it on TV or reading about it in a book.
As one famous juror (named Oprah Winfrey) put it, “It’s a huge reality check, when your life intersects with others in this way, it is forever changed.”
Like so many things in this digitized day and age, jury duty seems old school. You have to physically go to the court house. You have to pay attention to the proceedings, without the distraction of email and social media. And you have to compromise with your fellow jurors to make a fair decision. Jury duty causes us to step out from behind our screens and participate.
We’ve seen an uptick lately in the number of Americans fulfilling their civic duties by voting. But that’s only half of the equation. Jury duty is equally as important. Think of it this way: if you or a loved one find yourselves in court one day, don’t you want an active, engaged, fair-minded group of your peers helping bring the situation to a conclusion?
Let’s make jury duty cool again.
Let’s show up for each other in this most fundamental way. We get to be part of this process. We get to make sure our legal system works for each and every one of us. That is a pretty awesome privilege… and yes, a pretty awesome responsibility.