Originally created 08/15/04

Jurors need no excuses



The American Bar Association recently went through the trouble and expense of surveying 1,029 adults on how they feel about jury service.

Too bad. They could have simply asked Joan Shackelford.

The Richmond County jury clerk could have predicted that three-fourths of the respondents to the ABA survey would totally reject any notion that jury service was something to avoid.

Fact is, Richmond County has a miniscule no-show rate - about 4 percent - and even then, some of it is because people have moved away.

A lot of folks look forward to jury service or feel left out for never having been summoned.

"I find jurors more than willing to serve," Shackelford says. "I'm surprised at the number of people who come back and pay compliments. I think they feel better about how the court system works."

Likewise, she says the public's willingness to step up and perform a difficult, vital civic duty "reaffirms my faith in people. It honestly has."

Certainly there are some in the county's pool of some 145,000 potential jurors who want out. When the county's jury commissioners are qualifying a pool of 20,000 jurors from which to summon people, they see all kinds of excuses. Some say they can't go that long without a cigarette. Some claim to be racist or homophobic. One thought being a female impersonator was a reason to be excused. Another claimed to have 23 personalities - enough for nearly two juries.

Of course, jury service is a legal obligation, and there are very few excuses for even getting it delayed - extreme financial or vocational or academic hardship, debilitating illness, a death in the family. Not much more than that.

But if you listen to the ABA and Joan Shackelford, no excuses are necessary anyway.