Do not throw away the subpoena – justice cannot be done without you

This week’s question comes from Jacques P. in Daly City: I recently received a summons to serve as a juror. With all this going on, do I still need to be on a jury? Should I ignore it?

Thanks for your question, James. It is true that many courtrooms have started to hear jury trials. But many courts give priority to criminal cases. Los Angeles courts have focused on the 7,000 criminal cases currently pending, according to presiding judge Eric Taylor.

The civil cases were dismissed, leaving many victims eagerly awaiting trial for personal injury. Delayed cases include people seriously injured in car accidents, medical malpractice, workplace accidents, sexual assault and workplace harassment.

The delays are mainly due to the end of the 2020 pandemic. The apparent second wave of COVID-19 cases in various counties in California reinstates the restrictions and pandemic quarantines. The trend may spill over to counties across the state, which could mean additional trial extensions will continue to rack up pending cases. The legal landscape rightly frightens those who await verdicts.

Another reason for the delays that plague all California courts, even criminal trials, is that all trials come to a standstill without one key element: jurors.

Courts in Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego have had to delay trials in recent months because too few people responded to jury summons. Statewide, non-response rates are much higher now than they were before the pandemic.

San Francisco Superior Court, which gives potential jurors the option to report online or in person, reveals an online trend. In one case in July, of 135 jurors assigned to appear, 127 appeared remotely and eight people appeared in person at the courthouse. Of the eight who appeared in court, half were fired, leaving just four potential jurors in person for trial.

A San Diego television station reported that a criminal case had to be postponed last month because too few people appeared for the jury. Authorities twice summoned 900 people, but only 40 people showed up each time, KGTV reported.

“What does the real question come down to: are people ready to come to this court and participate in a jury trial? Said Bill Raftery, senior analyst at the National Center for State Courts. “Many courts have responded to jurors who have said they are uncomfortable coming to court and serving as a juror and therefore offering postponements simply because of concerns about COVID. “

These shortages of jurors have resulted in delays in criminal trials that infringe constitutional rights. The law says that people facing criminal charges are presumed innocent. For some defendants who cannot be released on bail or who are being held without bail, this means more time behind bars as a person on remand.

What can you do if you receive a jury summons? Don’t ignore it. You are needed.

“Justice has not stopped. Justice has slowed down, ”said Deborah Chang, president of the Consumer Attorneys of California.

The lack of jurors has a significant impact on civil proceedings. Personal injury victims who are disabled and / or out of work due to a tragic incident cannot wait months or years for a trial date or settlement.

“It’s devastating for the desperate customers and family,” Chang said.

The effects of these delays are devastating for the victims whose health is most fragile; they can hang on to life due to injury in an accident, or perhaps occupational exposure to a harmful substance. “It’s so devastating to lose a plaintiff before they reach the trial date because they die. Sometimes the claim dies with them, ”Chang said.

The system cannot function without members of the public. Jury trials offer citizens the opportunity to participate in the government process. Being on a jury is the most direct and impactful way for citizens to connect with the constitution. Citizens perpetuate our system of laws and stabilize our democracy.

Jurors play a vital role in the American justice system. The protection of our rights and freedoms depends in large part on the teamwork of the judge and the jury who, working together in a common effort, put into practice the principles of our legal system. In both civil and criminal cases, it is for the jury to decide the facts in accordance with the principles of law and guided by the designated judge. The decision is made on the basis of the evidence presented, and the jury’s decision on the facts is usually final.

Juries provide the citizen’s perspective to our developing body of law.

Exercise your constitutional right to participate in a process that is a cornerstone of American democracy: the jury trial!

Christopher B. Dolan is the owner of the Dolan law firm, PC. Lourdes De Armas is a trial lawyer in our Los Angeles office. We serve clients throughout the Bay Area and California from offices in San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles. Email your questions and topics for future articles to: [email protected]


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