Pressganged Onto The Jury

So you’re out and about, running errands and minding your business, when Deputy Friendly saunters up and hands you an envelope.  Congratulations, you’ve just been shanghaied into jury duty.

Madeline Byrne was making a quick trip to the grocery store to buy some cheese when a sheriff approached her car in the parking lot and slipped something through her open window.

Byrne didn’t get the cheese, but she did get a jury summons.

The 64-year-old woman was ordered to report for jury duty a little more than an hour later at the Lee County courthouse in Sanford, N.C. When Byrne protested, the sheriff told her: “Be there or you’ll be in contempt.”

“I wasn’t too happy,” said Byrne, one of at least a dozen people handed summonses at random in March outside a Food Lion and Wal-Mart.

This would cheese me off no end.  Not that I want to shirk jury duty.  But that there’s no warning. 

I have no problem serving on a jury, and in fact I’ve done so before.  But at least the normal jury summons gives you a chance to get your schedule in order before you go.  Having only an hour’s notice would be a major PITA

The article goes on to decry how people today won’t serve on juries.  And I’ve no doubt that it’s a serious problem.  But picking random people in the shopping center parking lot and disrupting their lives isn’t going to make things better. 

At least they realized that it’s not the right way to do things:

Ann Blakely, the clerk of Superior Court in North Carolina’s Lee County, said sending out sheriffs to find jurors at random is done very rarely, and only when a judge is about to begin a case and there are not enough jurors.

“Not again in my lifetime, I hope,” she said. “We got a lot of complaints from people. You do not make friends like that.”

I’m not sure what the solution is for getting people to serve on juries, but I’m fairly certain that this isn’t it.


  1. Phelps says:

    I’m trying to remember the name for the practice, but it is a very old tradition.  Back when juries were new (like in the 1600s) they got every jury this way.  The Sheriff (who also acted as judge) would go out into town square and grab the first 12 “good and true” he saw.  It was this way up into the 20th century, IIRC.  It was certainly comment in the western US territories.

  2. queuno says:

    As long as the sheriff is willing to pick up my kids from school, and ferry them to soccer practice, and ferry them home…

    I would love to serve on a jury (came close once but missed), but they’ve got to give a bit of notice…