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Opinion: Civics
Jury Duty Is Not Necessary

The right to a speedy and fair trial is part of the American experience guaranteed by the US constitution, specifically, the 6th amendment, enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

Most people regard jury duty as some form of civil obligation when, in fact, it's an unnecessary part of 21st century life that originated - at least in America - in colonial times because the Founding Fathers and residents of the New World at the time didn't exactly trust judges and magistrates appointed by the British Crown deciding their fates.

Eventually, anybody who has lived in a specific location for a reasonable period of time (more then two to three years) will be issued a summons from their county courthouse informing them that they are to report for jury service on a specific date or be liable for a fine or imprisionment, or both.

Were this a summons for a criminal or civll matter, in the ordinary procedure of things, one would be allowed to offer a defense, a rationale for why one should choose to not serve on a jury, but, there is no such defense, plea, or motion obtainable for not appearing other than various exemptions or exclusions, which are rather strict and favorable to only a select few, like people serving in the military, lawyers in general, or people who may have a relationship with a defendant, judge, or prosecutor.

Telling people in what used to be a free nation that they must comply or face punishment flies in the face of liberty and eventually, justice. The choice of serving on a jury should be one made by the individual, not the state. The mere fact that courts must compel jurors in such a manner belies the failure of the system itself. In a just, free, and fair state, due process would be preserved. In compelling citizens to serve on juries in lieu of contempt of the court, due process is denied. Citizens are being accused of crimes simply for standing their ground and refusing to comply with what they may consider to be judicial and governmental overreach.

Without elaborating on the constitutional and legal issues concerning forced jury service, many harbor serious reservations with the entire court process, not the least of which is being forced to convict somebody of a crime which they may or may not have committed, or allow an actual criminal to go free based upon evidence, which itself may be fraudulent, tampered with, or altogether false.

These are questions that should not be put to a panel of uninformed citizens, but to a judge trained in the execution of his or her office with knowledge of the law. Americans should be, and are often more than reluctant to decide a person's fate. Some groups, such as Menanites and Amish, are repulsed by the process that runs counter to their religious beliefs. Leave the judicial process to the authorities who charged the accused, not to innocent, unprepared, and eventually, indentured civilians.

In criminal matters, there exist all manner of loopholes, boondoggles, evasions, omissions, lies, and spurious defenses available to all parties. From the arresting parties to the defense and prosecuting attorneys to the witnesses and the accused, the truth is seldom as it appears. Most people would rather spend their time laboring in their own pursuits than being inconvenienced with matters they'd rather not entertain. Let the cops, courts, and criminals conduct their business on their own time. Citizen participation is largely unnecessary and unwarranted.

Least of all, Americans should not entertain any thoughts of treating any matters to which they may be assigned by force rather than choice with anything less than utter contempt. While not appearing per the summons may be contempt of court, the system of courts, over the years, has grown to unreasonable levels of power and influence. The actuality of jury service should be a prime consideration for judicial reform, though it seldom is.

People have been wrongly accused, wrongly freed, convicted on bad evidence or by biased judges and juries. The system of jurisprudence in this country has been undermined long ago. Putting the weight of a man or woman's fate upon the shoulders of the unsuspecting public is a crime against public policy, and, as such, should be periodically reviewed, of which forced jury service should be at the top of the list.

The chances of 12 people of differing opinions and leanings reaching an objective decision agreeable to all are roughly nil. Twelve people in this country cannot be relied upon to agree upon much of anything these days, from which is the better football team to how to bake the best biscuits. Empaneling ordinary people with such a heady task seems a complete folly in this day and age.

Finally, should one actually be assigned as a juror on any case, it's up to the individual to treat such assignment as a total displeasure and a violation of rights under the constitution or as a civic responsibility. Most people will likely be bored to tears, suffer a loss of income and time, and will likely render an opinion of guilty or not guilty beased on expediency rather than facts. Most people just want to get the heck out and go home. The system is tainted in many regards.

Remedies for court-sanctioned jury service, what amounts to coercion, are few. Normalcy bias brings together masses of people who wrongly think that they are supposed to serve or are afraid of running afoul of the law or the courts. And it's those same uninformed people who are going to judge a man or woman. It's a job for which most people are not well suited.

There is always jury nullification, wherein juries simply have the choice to ignore the law and/or the judge's instructions. Juries can find for acquittal or reach no unanimous verdict, which would produce a mistrial, wasting everybody's time.

Jury trials, as sparingly as they are employed, are a massive waste of human capital. Most countries don't even entertain juries. According to Maclen Stanley JD, Ed.M., in an insightful article in Psychology Today, the jury system was abolished in Germany in 1924, Singapore and South Africa in 1969, and India in 1973. In England, professional juries of people paid to render reasonable levels of justice are the norm.

In the end, serving on a jury should be a metter of personal conviction and conscience. If determining the guilt or innocence of a person you don't know for a crime which may or may not have been committed goes against your beliefs, you shouldn't have to do it.

-- Fearless Rick

Below an exception letter that actually worked, relieving the bearer from jury service. Actual names, dates and revealing information have been redacted or removed.

Trial Courts of _____ County, State of ______

Formal request to be exempted from jury duty by means of conscientious objection

To whom it may concern:

Having been summoned to appear for jury duty on DATE, I,_____________, am appearing under duress, being compelled to appear by reason of coercion, facing fine or imprisonment for failure to appear.

I am requesting that the court grant an exemption from jury service based on my deeply held moral belief that I should not be the judge of others, similar to exemptions granted to Mennonites, Amish, and Anabaptists, who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, specifically, his words in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7: 1, 2:

Do not judge, or you too will be judged.

For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged,
and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Having been raised a Christian, these words have guided my moral and ethical principles my entire life. As such, I have never served on a jury in any court in any jurisdiction nor is it my intention to do so, and request that this court honor my convictions by granting this conscientious objection.

I have researched the matter extensively and believe that a conscientious exemption should be allowed on religious as well as moral grounds, as embodied in the US Constitution's Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.

I have supplied references and case law in support of my position attached to this letter

As it pleases the court, I should be disqualified as incompetent to serve on a jury by reason of my convictions. It would serve the court and the public interest to exclude me from jury service as, were I to be empaneled on a jury, my deeply held beliefs and convictions would compel me to refuse to render a verdict of "guilty" or "not-guilty", causing a mistrial, wasting the time and resources of the court, its personnel, lawyers, defendants, plaintiffs, and the other jurors.

For these reasons, I request to be exempted from jury duty and to have my name permanently expunged from the roll of qualified potential jurors.

Sincerely yours,



1. The Holy Bible, Matthew Chapter 7, verses 1, 2.

2. Jury Selection and Service Act of 1968, Public Law 90-274

3. 28 U.S. Code Chapter 121 - JURIES; TRIAL BY JURY

4. Michael Hatfield, The Anabaptist Conscience and Religious Exemption to Jury Service, 65 N.Y.U. Ann. Surv. Am. L. 269 (2009)

5. United State Constitution, First Amendment, establishment clause

6. Supreme Court: Reynolds v. United States (1879) 98 U.S. 145, 146, 161 (1878)

7. Supreme Court: Sherbert v. Verner, 374 U.S. 398 (1963)

8. Supreme Court: Employment Divisions v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872, 884-85 (1990)

9. Supreme Court: Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520, 530 (1993)

10. Supreme Court: Welsh v. United States, 398 U.S. 333 (1970).

Readers are encouraged to use the letter as a template for exemption from jury service. The best arguments and background information can be found in reference #4, above.

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