Andrew Guthrie Ferguson: Educate the public about jury duty

October 14, 2013 

Regarding “Juror shortage still a vexing, costly problem” (Oct. 9, Editorial): The Bee is correct that the poor juror yields in California necessitate a change. But, one easy solution would be to educate citizens about why jury duty matters.

As a society, we invest very little in public education about why juries matter to the court system or the health of our democracy. We don’t explain their importance and then complain when citizens fail to show up. How many potential jurors know about the jury’s constitutional roots, its connection with the civil rights movement, or the women’s suffrage movement? How many citizens would today fight for the right to serve? Courts, schools, bar associations and civic organizations should begin the process of educating citizens to see this responsibility as a positive and patriotic experience.

Jury duty, like a democracy, requires each generation to believe in it for it to continue. As believers, we must minister, inspire and teach so that the faithful will continue to support one of the pillars of our constitutional system.

ANDREW GUTHRIE FERGUSON

author, “Why Jury Duty Matters: A Citizen’s Guide to Constitutional Action”

Washington, D.C.

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