David Blackwell - July 2020





Why Serving on a Jury Is a Right AND NOT AN INCONVENIENCE

Most people would agree that the right to vote is one of the most important rights given to Americans. Though I agree, I’d also say that Americans have another right that is just as important: the right to serve on a jury. Most people don’t think about serving on a jury as a right. Instead, they probably view it more like being held hostage. When you have to serve on a jury, it’s because you were sent a summons, without asking for one, to be somewhere where you don’t necessarily want to be, and you’re not allowed to leave until your captors (the courts) release you. I teach a business law course at the University of South Carolina Lancaster campus, and when the subject comes up with my students in class, I always liken serving on a jury to voting. In terms of function and importance, both acts are actually very similar. Just like voting, jury trials put the power to make big decisions back into the hands of the people. Instead of just letting a single judge (who is appointed by politicians) have the final say on a case, jury trials let people decide what they want for their own community, including safety and civility. Letting a jury of 12 very different people decide the outcome of a court case, instead of letting a judge handle everything, has a few key benefits. While judges have years of experience in the legal field, that doesn’t

mean they’re immune to biases. One judge could have a million biases against the plaintiff, the defendant, or certain issues that arise in the case that could affect their judgment. Each of the 12 jurors will also have biases, but they will more than likely discuss them throughout the decision-making process and, ideally, reach a verdict that reduces the impact of their biases. Jurors will also have a fresher perspective of the facts of a case, which is another advantage jury trials have over those decided by a judge. Jurors haven’t been working in the legal system long enough to be jaded by it, unlike some judges who may be from their years working as a lawyer before becoming a judge. Also, judges can be pretty far removed from public opinion. A jury brings a more common-sense approach to the case, fueled by real-life experiences and the jurors’ desires for the betterment of their community. Jurors come from all walks of life. You could have someone who is 18 alongside someone who’s 80. There could be an artist and a plumber sitting next to a surgeon. That diversity of backgrounds, opinions, and life experiences makes jury trials one of our country’s greatest ways for people to have a say in things that matter. It might not be as easy as leaving a case in the hands of a judge, but I’d much rather have important court decisions be decided by the people

rather than some politician, someone elected by a politician, or a bureaucrat. The people in our community are the ones who best know their own needs. Jury trials have been in practice since our country’s independence, and the fact that everyday Americans get the chance to participate in them is a tremendous privilege and part of what makes living in the United States great. You’re not a hostage; you are the button-pusher with a chance to keep making your community even better. Serve when you have the chance because everyone benefits.




Made with FlippingBook - Online magazine maker