The dog ate my summons. I'll be out of the country. It's too busy at work and I'm the only one who can do the job. The boss can't afford to lose me for a day or two.
Getting a summons to report for jury duty can be inconvenient. Marysville Municipal Court clerks have heard all the reasons for dodging jury duty, or worse, completely ignoring a summons by simply not responding when it comes in the mail.
It's unfortunate, court officials say, because many people don't know what they are missing.
"Surveys have found time and again that people strongly believe that jury duty should be fulfilled, even if inconvenient," municipal judge Fred Gillings said. "Surveys also show that while many have low expectations going into the process, after the fact they appreciate the chance to participate."
Jury duty is an important feature of civic participation in our democracy, a citizen's chance to speak for the community, deliberate and make fair decisions in a judicial system that couldn't function without it, according to court administrator Suzanne Elsner.
A few months ago, the municipal court summoned 50 residents for a six-juror panel. Typically, court officials may excuse 10-15 of these residents for various valid reasons. 14 people showed up for a six-member jury panel. The low number was too few to enable the city prosecutor and public defender to exercise their preemptive challenges. As a result, the trial was continued.
The way the system works, jurors are summoned randomly two months prior to a trial date and are scheduled at the time of trial. Jurors serving in Marysville Municipal Court must be residents of Marysville or the cities of Arlington or Lake Stevens, both of which contract for court (and jail) services. The court sends a reminder four weeks prior to the trial date to those who have not yet responded.
The court's two judges, Fred Gillings and Lorrie Towers, hear criminal cases including assault, domestic violence, driving under the influence, non-felony thefts and other various gross misdemeanors, misdemeanors and infractions.
"Jury trials are an important civic function at the courthouse," said Judge Gillings. "Without it, we couldn't do the court's business."
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