FULFILLING your civic obligation to serve as a juror shouldn't be hardship duty. It shouldn't come at such a high financial cost that citizens summoned to jury service can't afford to accept.
But because it does for many potential jurors struggling to survive a prolonged recession, a growing number of them are asking to be excused from jury duty in a trend that could affect the dispensation of justice.
The dilemma of dwindling jury pools is hitting courts where justice depends on a jury of one's peers. It has forced some courtrooms to substantially raise the number of jurors called to duty just to be covered.
Clearly, those who do fulfill their civic duty as jurors, despite the sacrifices endured, are to be commended. But others also must assume the civic responsibilities crucial to a fair and equitable judicial system. And in today's economy, future jurors may need extra support to complete their task. No one should face financial insolvency for service, and no one should forfeit a paycheck during jury duty.
Employers who withhold pay during jury service are being punitive instead of positive about citizens doing the right thing.
Likewise, the burden of fulfilling jury duty should not fall only on the limited resources of those out of work, those who have just found new jobs and are afraid of losing them, or the self-employed worried about businesses collapsing without them.
But economic duress or not, the courts cannot function well if people summoned for jury duty beg off. We all share a responsibility to make sure our courts deliver justice the way they should with enough jurors willing to serve, even under extraordinary circumstances.
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