Friday, July 12, 2002
Judges, Lawyers Serving More Often as Jurors, Superior Court Survey Finds
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Lawyers and judges in Los Angeles County are now pulling their weight on juries, answering the call at the same rate as the general population, the Los Superior Court reported yesterday.
Citing a statistical breakdown of jurors based on questionnaire answers submitted between June 1, 2001 and May 31, 2002, the court reported a 68 percent rate of response from judges called to jury service who went as far as voir dire, 74 percent for lawyers, 76 percent for deputy district attorneys, and 63 percent for deputy public defenders.
That compares with 73 percent for the general public.
Superior Court Presiding Judge James Bascue said the numbers show that no special treatment or excuses from jury duty are being given to people who work in the courts.
“This analysis underscores the reality that we are approaching true equity in jury service in Los Angeles County, and that is notable,” Bascue said. “We have reached a point where citizens from all walks of life report for jury service and sit on juries.”
Bascue said that before the one-day, one-trial system was implemented, boosting the number of jurors needed each day, the courts accepted excuses from people employed in the justice system—and other fields—who in essence said they were too important to take time out for jury duty.
“It fanned resentment,” Bascue said. “It was an inequity, and we moved to eliminate it. We want everyone in Los Angeles County to know that the jury system seeks—and achieves—true equity.”
Still, not everyone in the system is required to serve. Police officers and sheriff’s deputies are excused from jury service by state law, even from civil cases. A bill in the state Legislature would add exemptions for prison guards and parole and probation officers.
Although judges and lawyers are called, and answer, at about the same rate as the general public, they don’t serve as often, according to the study. Jurists, prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers often are stricken during voir dire.
Only nine of the 113 judges actually called ended up serving as a juror on a trial.
Still, Assistant Presiding Judge Robert Dukes said, the fact that they served is significant.
“Having nine judges—and 13 percent of all attorneys—actually seated on juries is testimony to the inherent equity in our jury system,” Dukes said.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company