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Hard Economic Times Hit the Jury Box

Chris Russo Mar 17, 2010

http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/03/17/jury.duty.recession/index.html?hpt=C1

As the so-called "Great Recession" continues, people are finding it economically difficult to perform their civic duties such as jury service.  Many jurors are finding that they are unable to perform service to their country because they cannot afford to take more days off from work or are unemployed and cannot devote the resources toward going to their local courthouse.  We are reminded by events like these that America was founded on principles of limited government and that the true power of government belongs to the people.  This is done through political process when we vote out members of our government that we are not collectively happy with and when we participate as jurors in our judicial system.  Since the advent of our hard economic times, many people are seeking relief from the government.  In the meantime, many state and local governments have scaled back funding for the judicial branch--the third branch of government.  By doing that, the government is reducing the one of the two major ways that the true power of government is supposed rest with the people.  While the jury system may not be perfect, it is the belief that the people will do the right thing and, as the people sit on juries across the country, the people are responsible for deciding whether someone is guilty or innocent (not guilty) and whether someone is liable of not liable in the civil courts.  Likewise, with the stroke of the same pen, those very same jurors determine whether people who have been injured or suffered a loss (property or person) gets compensation for their loss.  While we understand that money cannot bring someone back from the dead or make an injury stop hurting, it is the only means that we have to compensate those who have suffered losses.  Many political activists complain about frivolous lawsuits and that our judicial system in clogged with them.  Herein lies the duty of the people in the jury system--it is not for the government to decide which lawsuits are frivolous--it is for the people to decide by a trial by jury.  Many people who have filed such frivolous lawsuits have suffered a loss for less than seven figures.  While the jury decisions in those cases may not be earth moving, those decisions are where the rubber meets the road for the average American claimant.  For the average American, we cannot afford to litigate for years and our claims, very likely not frivolous, may not be newsworthy but can be very important to the lives of the claimants.  For many, it means the difference between being able to support themselves rather than rely on government assistance.  While overlooked by many, it also means that many government programs such as Medicare or Medicaid as well as private health insurance are repaid from the at-fault parties.  There are important implications of jury service that many jurors do not know about and therefore cannot consider.  Jury service is a very important service that this country cannot continue to remain free without.

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