According to a report Monday by The Los Angeles Times, there was something resembling an real taxpayer/citizen revolt in a Los Angeles County courtroom. Spurred by the financial hardship of serving on a jury for an extended period, empanelled jurors about to be sworn in by the judge voiced loud and extreme doubts about the case they were supposed to hear. The angry jurors claimed they could not believe that someone brave enough "to go out and get shot at" would suffer emotional distress at being falsely accused of being gay, as claimed by the plaintiff, a sheriff's deputy suing his former sergeant, in the case before them.
Next, not only the panel, but the jury pool in the courtroom erupted with such vociforus complaints and comments that both the plaintiff and defense counsel, finding the potential jury "scary," waived the white flag and asked for a bench (judge only) trial.
But don't necessarily try this at home. The Times reports observers noting this was a particularly extreme example. "We can't have a disgruntled jury," said attorney Gregory W. Smith, who represents Deputy Robert Lyznick in the lawsuit against his former supervisor. He found the panel just too volatile for either side to trust.
Jurors in Los Angeles County, as in the rest of the country, are increasingly stretched by having to serve on jury for more than a few days. The Times reports that L.A. Judge Robert H. O'Brien, attempting to seat a jury with 12 slightly less angry citizens for his asbestos case, dealt with 66 of 107 prospective jurors asking to be excused under the plea of financial hardship.
The Times reports that due to cost cutting measures, L.A. County is making due with 45,000 summonses a week to jury duty, down from 55,000 a week, at $15 a day. But take note, the cuts have compelled stricter scrutiny of those claiming financial, medical and child-care problems, according to Gloria Gomez, director of juror services for the Los Angeles County Superior Court. The county has also tightened sanctions for repeat no-shows, imposing fines of as much as $1,500.
If summoned to jury duty, don't skip out, it could result in a fine. And don't pull out your musket, make your case to the judge in a reasonable manner, he or she just might listen. Superior Court Judge James R. Dunn, in whose courtroom the revolution took place, said the economic pressures on both states and jurors are pushing the courts, "to be very diligent in reviewing excuses." Maybe even more so now.
- Weighed down by recession woes, jurors are becoming disgruntled (Los Angeles Times)
- Missing Jury Duty: What Happens? (FindLaw Blotter)
- What if I am called for jury duty? (FindLaw)
- "Jesus Christ" Booted from Alabama Jury (FindLaw's Legally Weird)