Answering the call for jury – and civic – duty

4:02 pm May 28th, 2014

If you’ve ever served on a jury, or haven’t but would if you could, then you were the star of Pierce County’s judicial system for a week last month.
Jury Appreciation Week was May 19-23 in recognition of citizens who, after receiving a jury summons in the mail, take time away from their families and jobs to be part of the right to trial by a jury of one’s peers. The salute to this cornerstone of government included some gastric delights. Cake, cookies and nachos were served to jurors who were on hand at the courthouse that week.
I’ve served on juries twice and enjoyed every minute. I’d covered trials as a reporter and thought I understood the process from virtually every perspective, but I learned some new things when I actually was part of them.
Making decisions that could dramatically alter another person’s life isn’t an easy responsibility, but it’s the backbone of our system of justice, says Ron Culpepper, the presiding judge of Pierce County Superior Court.
“Ninety-five percent of all the jury trials in the world happen in the United States because the jury system is embedded in our culture,” Culpepper said at a County Council meeting as Jury Appreciation Week was officially proclaimed. “The system wouldn’t work without the tens of thousands of people each year who serve for $10 a day.”
That token compensation is why some people with jobs chafe at and somtimes beg off from jury duty. They can’t afford to lose a real day’s pay, though some employers still pay workers for days they miss while juried up. People also often can’t spare the time away from work.
Those are factors in some citizens being excused from jury duty. Everyone else fulfills a fundamental civic responsibility by showing up at the courthouse when they’re called.
My wife answered the call in April and my daughter in May. The two-week commitments required them to call a courthouse phone number each weeknight and listen to a recorded message about whether they needed to report the next day.
Their experiences differed. My wife was in a pool of prospective jurors for a criminal trial and spent a good part of one day being questioned by the lawyers on either side of the case to determine if they could be comfortable with her helping decide the defendant’s fate. She eventually was turned down because her personal experience with and views about the type of crime involved in the case made it too hard for her to be objective.
My daughter, caught in the throes of planning her June marriage, saw jury duty as an acceptable but unwanted distraction. She was glad when her juror pool number never came up and didn’t have to spend a single day at the courthouse. Turns out it was a light two weeks for trials.
County Councilwoman Connie Ladenburg has her own unique story about jury duty. Her husband, John Ladenburg, was a newly elected prosecuting attorney for the county when her jury summons arrived in the mail one day..
“I was excited about it but didn’t expect to be chosen.. In fact, the presiding judge saw me walk in to the jury box and before I could even sit down, he jokingly told me I was excused,” Ladenburg said. “But I was eventually picked to serve on a jury, and it was truly a valuable experience. I highly recommend that anyone who receives the blue slip in the mail fulfill their civic duty and participate.”

Dispatch editor Pat Jenkins can be reached at and 360-832-4697.

2 Responses to Answering the call for jury – and civic – duty

  1. Eric Watson Reply

    May 29, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    I really dont like to say this but Jury duty is a rip off. Our time to them is worth pennies. But they make billions. Federal Government grants are handed to them in huge unknown amounts each year to prosecute you. Or the criminals but who knows the difference. Each year they make their own rules to protect them from prosecution. Not just some of them but ALL OF ANY GOVERNMENT JOB. I call it the JUST US System because its JUST THEM having unlimited amounts of money to prosecute YOU. WE THE PEOPLE have to dig into our hard earned pockets to defend ourselves and pay an attorney tens of thousands or more. Not them. The cop who shot the Native guy in Seattle was covered. But the guy who shot the State Patrol had a court appointed attorney who made only 45$ an hour along with 55 other clients per week. They call it your duty. When in fact if you are called upon and refuse, you are then a criminal because they will charge you with contempt of court and will jail you and or fine you. Check this out and its not the only time.

    With that coverage…and Pierce County celebrating Jury of the week, with snickers in their smiles. Laughing at you all, with those under breath statements calling you suckers….and thanks for the million you made us….take your pennies and have a nice day…..sucka.

    The reality is, who is the real crook. Look at your property taxes. Paying 107 each year because of the water run off from your property. Even if it does not have run off. Then there is more taxes for weed control…which on my 7 acres I have to go out and maintain it myself….and still pay. Not to mention those who dont have kids, are paying about 75% of their property taxes to the education slush fund. Isnt that what the Lotto was for? Oh yeah Christine Gregoire kinda changed the name of that slush fund. Who knows how much went into her pockets or her buddies that were lined up with hands out.

    WE THE PEOPLE really need to pay attention and start standing up for what is right and what is wrong. People sitting on their what evers and look the other way when a new law is passed even though the voters said NO(early 2000s 5 cent fuel tax) the legislature added it anyway. Another fact is in 2004 Christine Gregoire initiated the DISTRICT TAX on YOUR PROPERTIES YES YOURS a big fat .78% so instead of 1% its now 1.78 percent. I guess she held it off long enough so that when that law we voted on or how ever it started, was long enough so people would think it was just a something raise.

    We said no on their raises. They got them anyway. We say no to many things and those lawyers sit there and give it a OKAY anyway and under their breaths say….they dont have the money to challenge it. ANd we dont.

    So, Jury Duty people who was there and will be there. Is it really your duty to be patronized as a puppet and get paid 10$ a day for your time? And sit there in the Jury box looking at a Judge making 200 thousand a year as well as those attorneys making 100 to 1000 bucks an hour?

    I smile with those crooks because YOU are the Puppets and I am not.

  2. Eric Watson Reply

    May 31, 2014 at 12:45 am

    I almost forgot. Anyone who has had a traffic ticket when traffic tickets were criminal charges are considered as criminals and should not be allowed to be a Jury member. If you are called to be a Jury member, you can use this excuse, “IM sorry, but I have had a criminal charge in the past”.

    Im curious….who has done Jury Duty who has had a criminal charge? I bet 80% have. lol

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