Reformers aim to make jury duty more palatable

Newhouse News Service
Monday, November 17, 2003

For many Americans, jury duty is about as appealing as a traffic ticket or a trip to the dentist: It can be tedious, time-consuming and offer little reward.

Now a reform group wants to lessen the dread and apathy that have become synonymous with jury service. It is promoting legislation at the state level that would allow prospective jurors a one-time postponement for any reason and pay those stuck on lengthy trials as much as $300 a day.

But the "Jury Patriotism Act" is raising eyebrows. Some interest groups
object to funding the juror payments with a surcharge on lawsuit filing fees. And an official in one of the nation's largest court systems said some aspects could tie judges' hands when jurors have arguably worthy excuses.

Three states Arizona, Utah and Louisiana have passed different versions of
the act this year, and proponents expect more than two dozen others to take it up in 2004.

Critics, however, say charging fees of any amount unfairly penalizes

"It's not appropriate to finance our judicial system by taxing people who use it in order to get justice," said Joanne Doroshow, executive director of the Center for Justice and Democracy, a New York-based legal advocacy group.

The fee "is a backhanded effort to take away the rights of people (filing
lawsuits) who are injured through no fault of their own, but to place no burden on the corporations that injure them," agreed Carlton Carl, a spokesman for theAssociation of Trial Lawyers of America.
For a copy of the complete article, contact CJ&D.

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