PHOENIX (November 2, 2023) – One by one, they walked to the podium to learn their consequence for missing jury duty.
On Oct. 20, the Judicial Branch of Arizona in Maricopa County scheduled Order to Show Cause hearings for people who ignored their jury summons or responded but failed to appear. The citizens were placed under oath and asked to tell their side of the story to Judges Joseph Kreamer and Danielle Viola.
“The hearings were important because we got to send a message to the community about the importance of jury service and the consequence for not coming,” Judge Joseph Kreamer said. “We had some folks that were fined because they had no valid reason for not appearing. But then we had others who had compelling reasons why they were not able to report.”
Of the 33 notices sent out for the Order to Show Cause hearings, 30 individuals appeared.
“A number of individuals came in with a certain expectation about jury service and what they thought was going to happen. But I think they left with a better appreciation of the Court’s expectation and the value of jury service,” Judge Danielle Viola said. “Once they understood the information about jury service, they left with a realization that they are able to serve, and how the Court is willing to work with them.”
Before the hearings, the judges detailed the changes the Judicial Branch has made to improve jury service over the past year.
“Jury service is different than it used to be. There is more money available to jurors and the process is much more streamlined. The Arizona Jury Fund now provides any juror who is selected to be on a jury up to $300 a day for their service. That has dramatically reduced the number of financial hardships,” Judge Kreamer said. “We’ve also made jury selection more efficient. The Court and the parties can now decide more quickly if someone is qualified to be on a particular jury. For the Court, it’s important we are not wasting people’s time.”
The United States and Arizona State Constitution guarantee the right to trial by jury. All Maricopa County residents are obligated by state law to serve as a juror, unless excused. When a person receives a summons in the mail, they are asked to visit the Maricopa County eJuror System at https://superiorcourt.maricopa.gov/jury which allows jurors to qualify for jury service, ask for excuse/disqualification and postponements and get additional information about jury service. If summoned, jurors must call after the 5 p.m. the night before they are expected to report to verify if they are needed.
“If you know you can’t show up, the best thing you can do is communicate with the jury office,” Judge Viola said. “In some cases, they may be able to offer a postponement or a release, but the key is communication. What we don’t want is for people to ignore their summons and not show up.”
Both judges conducting the hearings recognized that jury service can be inconvenient but juror feedback among those who served on a trial is almost always positive, and they can’t wait to be called again.
“We want jurors to go away from their time and share their positive experience with the young people in their lives because we want future jurors to look at jury service with excitement instead of hesitation,” Judge Viola said.
Jurors are a vital part of American democracy, and the justice system doesn’t work without their participation.
“Our system of justice is unique in this country compared to many other places in the world. As part of our justice system, each citizen in our community plays a role,” Judge Viola said. “There is a constitutional right to a jury trial so if you are a victim of a crime, a defendant who has been charged with a crime, someone who was injured in a car accident or taken advantage of by fraud, you have an opportunity to have your day in court. Without citizens in our community taking part in jury service, the courts can’t fulfill their constitutional obligation to make sure that people have a way to have their matters resolved.”
For more information on jury service, please visit: https://superiorcourt.maricopa.gov/jury