Excuses versus Legitimate Reasons for Jury Duty Dismissal

This is the third, and final, post about my recent experience with jury duty in Fort Lauderdale, Broward County, Florida. As readers of David’s and my blog know, I have spent much of my career as a jury/trial consultant assisting attorneys selecting hundreds of juries. In addition, I have conducted numerous scientific studies of jury decision making, leading to publications in professional journals. Finally, I have made hundreds of presentations to attorneys on the topic of jury selection, jury behavior, and related topics. Most people would consider me to be an expert on both jury decision making and its counterpart, decision making in all types of group settings. When it comes to studying human behavior, I have truly seen and heard just about everything. This “just about everything” includes hearing people whine, moan, and complain about having to interrupt their everyday routines in order to complete their jury service. In that most people, at least the ones who complain to me, have a mostly mundane, ordinary existence, it amazes me that they think they are so high and mighty as to be entitled to be excused from jury duty. Word to these people: No, you’re really not that special. Your lame excuses for avoiding jury duty are just that: lame and excuses. Examples of lame excuses I heard from my fellow jurors are: “My daughter is 11 years old, but she’s my little baby. I have someone who can pick her up from school, but I will miss seeing her for a few afternoons if I have to be on this jury”; “I am the office manager at work and there is no way my boss will be able to survive for a few days without me. He can’t even make a cup of coffee”; and “I’m 25 years old and have never learned how to drive, so I can’t get to the courthouse.” Come on, people! As to the first person, believe me when I tell you this: your daughter is thrilled not to have you hovering over her for the next few afternoons. As for the second person, I wondered whether her boss is as dumb as she made him seem or whether he would be fine if some other employee made his coffee. And, regarding the last person, has she never heard of taking the bus? How about Uber or Lyft? Unbelievable! In contrast to these, shall I say, losers, there were several people with legitimate reasons to request dismissal from jury duty. These include someone who works in a restaurant and whose wages depend on tips; someone who has a special needs child with a doctor’s appointment on a day during the trial; someone who was injured at work a few days before the trial began and who needed to be evaluated for a worker’s comp. claim; and someone who had a serious medical problem and had been waiting to see a specialist for 6 months, only to be called for jury duty. Believe me: the judge, the attorneys, and I have all heard enough jurors’ life stories to know which ones are legitimate and which ones are not. Remember this the next time you are summoned for jury duty: The only person you are fooling with your lame excuses is you!

Not only have Melissa and I heard the question, “How do I get off of jury duty?” too many times to count, but Melissa hears the excuses on a regular basis.  And, I’ve taken random calls, from strangers, asking how to “get off” jury duty on several occasions.  Melissa reports to me that some judges seem so conditioned to hearing these excuses that they sometimes are callous to real reasons which should excuse the prospective juror.  But, too many people try to scam the system and are willing to make up stories or take extreme positions to avoid the perceived inconvenience of jury duty. In some ways, this probably exacerbates the cycle of excuses.  As noted before, jury duty is a right, responsibility and a way to contribute to society.  In both criminal and civil trials, peoples’ lives depend on it!  We set up a small section of our website  to convey this, but I’m finishing this post with a reminder: Do your civic duty. Your opinions count. You are needed by your community, your friends, and your neighbors.  Quit whining.  


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