The 4th of July is a time to celebrate our patriotism. Unfortunately, with the 4th falling midweek this year, few wanted to show their patriotism by serving as a juror. When a major holiday falls midweek, the week is lost. Some take a few days off before or after the holiday. Some take the entire week off. People’s minds are on BBQ, fireworks, the beach, and travel. This led us to wonder how a midweek holiday would impact the composition of the venire.
We did a little online research. It’s no secret that there are many websites people use to communicate excuses or ideas to get out of jury service. However, I was surprised to see that people even use Yelp for ideas. Not only can you get some good pointers
on a restaurant or hotel, but Yelp is also a source for trying to get out of jury service! One of the most recommended strategies was rescheduling one’s service around a holiday. People felt that attorneys and judges didn’t want to schedule a trial around a holiday, so it was a safe bet to defer one’s service around holidays. What does this mean if jurors who have deferred their service get called to serve on a holiday week? These individuals are already trying to get out of serving, so they may continue trying different reasons until they are successful.
How else might a holiday week effect the composition of the venire? People with higher socioeconomic statuses would be more likely to have firm plans that include prepaid travel. Those with lower socioeconomic statuses, if they planned to travel, may have more flexible plans that include driving rather than air travel. Therefore, those with higher socioeconomic statuses may be more apt to get out of serving during a holiday week. Some with longstanding plans would have already deferred out of that week. This may skew demographics of the jury pool. Depending on your case and client, this may be more or less of an advantage.
We have no control over who shows up in the venire. Sometimes it is just the luck of the draw. Sometimes the pool really looks as if it mirrors the community’s demographics. Sometimes it just doesn’t look like what we would have expected. The most extreme example was a trial I had in Fulton County Superior Court in Atlanta. Over 40% of the jury pool was under the age of 23, and most of those individuals were Caucasian college students from the county’s affluent north side. It turns out that all of those individuals had deferred their service while they were away at college. While this is an extreme example, certain events, such as a holiday falling midweek, definitely could have an impact on who shows up for jury duty.
Excuses about getting out of jury duty are everywhere. At this point, I wouldn’t even be shocked to see excuses posted on a roadside billboard. Most of us have probably heard from family or friends who proudly proclaimed that they got out of serving. They then proceed to tell us what worked for them. We see skits on television about avoiding jury service. I even recently saw a performance by the Groundlings Comedy Troup that featured comedians offering outrageous excuses as to why they could not serve. Why can’t I serve, your Honor? Well, I am waiting for a UFO to pick me up this Thursday. They are coming from very far away, so it’s too late to reschedule. (At least it’s entertaining and original, and it worked for the Groundlings.)
Today, however, communications are very different than they were just 10-15 years ago because of the Internet and Social Media. There are countless articles online that offer a variety of suggestions about how to get out of jury duty, serving as an encyclopedia of excuses that is available 24/7. Websites ranging from credible news sources to blogs offer advice, pointers, personal experiences that worked and didn’t work for potential jurors.
This led me to wonder just how many potential jurors are looking to the Internet to find ways not to serve. I recently surveyed 73 mock jurors from Los Angeles County. These individuals were recruited to reflect the diverse demographic characteristics of jurors who serve in Los Angeles County Superior Courts. We asked a coupe of questions:
(1) Have you ever “made up” a reason why you could not serve as a juror in an attempt to get out of serving as a juror?
(2) Have you ever looked online for suggestions about getting out of jury service?
Of the 73 participants, 5, or approximately 7% admitted either making up an excuse or embellishing a reason why they could not serve. None of the 73 said that they had ever looked online for a reason or suggestion to get out of service.
Fortunately, 93% reported that they have never concocted a reason to get out of jury duty. However, those who did had no problems successfully coming up with a reason on their own. Wouldn’t it be interesting if Los Angeles County jurors looked to the Groundlings for excuses?