St. Mary's Law Journal


Many citizens seem to embrace the jury system, so long as they do not have to participate. The reason for this is not that most citizens are “un-American” but rather the burden jury duty imposes on potential jurors. Texans, in general, continue to overwhelmingly support the jury system. Yet, many citizens fail to appear for jury duty when summoned or strive to get out of jury duty after entering the courthouse. Most of these individuals do not lack a sense of civic duty. Rather, they are discouraged from jury service due to the hardship and headache imposed by an antiquated system that does not provide adequate financial compensation for jurors leaves little or no flexibility as to the dates of service and may involve unnecessary time in a waiting room. Moreover, the loosely defined standard for an excuse from service and the lack of a sufficient deterrent for ignoring a jury summons provides many citizens with an easy way to escape jury duty. The Jury Patriotism Act developed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) would break down each of the barriers frustrating jury service in Texas. Under ALEC, an individual's failure to appear for jury service would be punishable as a misdemeanor, a threat sufficient to cause one to pause before ignoring a jury summons. This penalty should communicate to jurors the importance of jury service and notify them that shirking one’s civic obligation to serve will be criminally punished as a misdemeanor. Additionally, jurors will avoid spending time in a courthouse waiting room with a one-day/one-trial system. They would also receive better compensation. Through these reforms, Texans, regardless of income or occupation, will be better able to fulfill their patriotic duty to serve on a jury.


St. Mary's University School of Law