When the summons arrives in the mail to serve on a jury, the first impulse for many people is to find an excuse to get out of serving. One suburban man took the concept of skipping out on jury duty to a whole new level when he left in the middle of a trial to meet with a client in Iowa City. The traveling salesman feared losing one of his best clients and just up and left. Judge James Holderman had other ideas. The judge fined the man $1,000 and forced him to write an essay on his experience and then attend a jury symposium later this year.
Judge Holderman wanted to set an example to let people know that serving on a jury is an important part of citizenship. "It is vital that all citizens participate on juries and not sell their birthright for a mess of pottage," he said. About one out of every three people summoned to serve do not even bothering showing up, according to Judge Holderman. This is an alarming statistic.
Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch has been pushing for meaningful jury reform for years. Unfortunately, the leadership in the House and the Senate refuse to make common-sense jury reform ideas a priority. They have plenty of time to debate poll taxes at strip clubs but just can't seem to find the time to discuss something as fundamental to our democracy as jury duty.
I applaud Judge Holderman for shining the light on a significant problem. Now it is up to us as citizens to take the next steps. We need jury reform, but until we get these reforms we need Illinois residents to take their responsibility to serve on juries more seriously.
Illinois Lawsuit Abuse Watch