Jury Duty: Why Not Ask Who Wants to Do It?

12-angry-men-inside-amy-schumerI just spent the last 2 days sitting in a room waiting.

This was my third time being called in for jury duty. In case you’ve never gone through the process, or perhaps your process is different than in St. Louis, here’s how it works:

  • A bunch of people (maybe 500? 1000?) are selected a few months in advance to appear for jury duty. You’re legally required to do it, and your job must allow you to do it.
  • All of those people must show up at the downtown courthouse on Monday morning each week. Each person is assigned a number and they sit down in a big room to wait.
  • When one of the nearby courts needs a jury, 54 numbers are randomly selected. Those people leave the big room and go to a courtroom.
  • In the courtroom, both attorneys ask the potential jurors a bunch of questions to determine who can be fair and unbiased. From my experience, this process usually lasts about a day, and by the end of the day the lawyers agree on a jury of 12 people plus a few alternates.

The entire process seems largely based on randomness (to get a mix of people of all ages, races, genders, etc) and breadth of selection (to make sure there are enough people available during the questioning process to narrow it down to 12 ideal jurors).

However, the one thing that seems to be missing from the process is the question of whether or not someone wants to be on the jury. These seems particularly important, because if you actively don’t want to be on the jury, you might rush your decision.

I wasn’t picked for jury duty today. As I walked out of the courthouse, I heard one person remark, “I wish I could have been chosen.”

This struck me, especially because I was one of the many people who was hoping not to get chosen. Why is the desire to serve as a juror not factored at all into the decision?

I’d propose a simple solution (which I’m sure lawyers will point out as completely misguided, which I’m fine with). When a person confirms receipt of their jury summons form, they should have to check one of two boxes:

  1. I will show up for jury duty, but I hope to not be selected. I agree to receive $18 a day for my service if I am selected or if I am not selected.
  2. I will show up for jury duty, and I hope to be selected. I agree to receive $30 a day for my service if I am selected or if I am not selected.

In this system, everyone still has to show up and sit around for 2 days. They’re still selected randomly and sent to the courtrooms, and they go through the same questioning process.

But when the questions are complete and the lawyers sit down to select the jury, those who chose #2 are given the clear priority over those who chose #1, all other factors remaining equal.

This would hopefully lead to happier juries that don’t rush their decisions. It wouldn’t feel like a burden, because they either wanted to be on the jury in the first place and/or they’d like a little extra cash in their pockets.

It would also give people like me who feel they don’t have time to serve on the jury (though I would give it my full attention if selected–I feel like that’s part of my duty as a US citizen) the option to make less money and be considered at less of a priority that the $30 jurors.

What do you think? Would this work? Which option would you choose?