People want to serve on juries and would prefer to have jury trials if ever in court, according to a poll that surprised some leaders of the nation’s largest lawyers’ organization.
Three-quarters of the people surveyed for the American Bar Association disagreed with the notion that jury service is a hardship to be dodged.
Robert Grey Jr., a Richmond, Va., attorney who becomes the 400,000-member group’s president on Tuesday, said that despite the positive findings, courts report low response rates for people called to jury duty.
He named a commission to promote jury service and a separate panel to work on standards that would make service easier.
“Juries are a vital aspect of the American justice system. They are the third leg — lawyers and judges being the other two — that make our trial system stable,” he said.
Patricia Refo, a Phoenix attorney who will head the work on standards, said Grey’s panel may recommend changes that make jury paperwork more understandable, new guidelines for note-taking during trials and increases in compensation to cover jurors’ expenses for transportation, meals and child care.
The ABA policy-making board will vote on proposals early next year.
Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor was named honorary chairwoman of Grey’s commission. She said in a speech in Kentucky last year that reforms were needed.
“We just have made it very tough for juries,” she said. “Sometimes the conditions in which they have to sit and wait to be called are just abysmal. And the pay is very low, particularly for somebody who has a job, and they have to leave the job and come be at the beck and call of the court to sit as a jury.”
The commission will be led by New York Chief Judge Judith Kaye, Chicago attorney Manuel Sanchez and Oscar Criner, who was jury foreman in the 2002 trial of the accounting firm Arthur Andersen for destroying and altering Enron Corp.-related documents.
More than 60 percent of those polled for ABA had been called for jury service.The poll found:
- Three in four people would prefer that their cases be decided by juries instead of judges.
- About half believe jurors are treated well by courts.
- Nearly 60 percent look forward to jury service.
Harris Interactive interviewed 1,029 adults from July 15-18 in the poll, which had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.