I was sick. I was on house arrest. I couldn’t miss work.
One by one, six people were called in front of Judge Patricia Starr on Friday to explain why they ignored jury summonses from Maricopa County Superior Court.
Most had missed multiple jury dates before they were ordered to appear. Their job now was to convince Starr not to hold them in contempt of court.
“I don’t know where I signed up for this,” one man told the judge after being held in contempt for missing three separate jury dates. He said would have lost $250 if he had to show up for jury duty.
“We all sign up for it by being citizens of the country,” Starr replied. “We have about 160 judicial officers and thousands of staff at the courts, but we can’t run without jurors.”
Approximately 395,000 Maricopa County residents are summoned to appear in superior court for jury duty each year, jury administrator Nicole Garcia said. About 44,000 are ordered to respond on their designated day. Even fewer are called before a jury panel. They then have the opportunity to explain how sitting on a jury would negatively affect them.
“A lot of people come in with child-care issues, work or school,” Starr said. “The judge will listen, and if there’s extreme financial hardship or if they’ll lose a job, we take all that into account. You need to show up to do that.”
Four people were excused from Friday’s hearing after Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies were unable to serve the summons. Another was excused from Friday’s hearing after providing proof she moved to another state. One woman who failed to appear in court had a$150 warrant issued for her arrest.
Each person present Friday was fined a few hundred dollars for their misdeeds and ordered to appear for jury duty at a future date.
The most common excuses from the no-show potential jurors were claims that they couldn’t afford to take the time off work for the day.
One man did appear for jury duty, but didn’t come back after his group was released for a lunch break. He claimed to have missed the other two notices as he lacked access to his mailbox at the time.
Another said he was on house arrest at the time, but he didn’t send proof to the court before the date he was scheduled to show.
Juror no-shows can be ordered to pay up to $500 if a judge finds them in contempt.
Garcia said the only time she’s seen someone hit with the full amount was when actor Steven Segal flouted having ignored his summons for two years. The actor, who has a home in Carefree, claimed serving on a jury would cause him and the many people who depend on his films financial hardship. Needless to say, the judge didn’t buy it.
“We understand jury service can be an imposition on people’s lives,” Garcia said. “That’s why we try to work with jurors. The biggest thing I can say is just call us. Don’t ignore your summons.”
For many, jury duty is one of those things people will use any excuse to get out of, but a four-year-old boy has a pretty good reason to be excused, he’s four.
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