Jury Duty for the unemployed

Andrew Sullivan

Jury duty is a hassle. Most people I know avoid it like cancer, dreaming up all sorts of excuses. It may be better if we could get the unemployed, particularly white collar workers currently unemployed to do jury duty for us.

It is not a silly idea you know, Fred Clark thinks giving the unemployed preference for jury duty has some merit.

First, it reduces the frequency of jury duty for those with employment. They’d still be called to serve, but less often, thus reducing the total level of inconvenience and hassle due to missing days at work. And it would channel more of those tiny, inadequate stipends to unemployed people who could use even such trivial sums.

His vision doesn’t end there:

I want to repurpose all that mostly wasted time prospective jurors now spend sitting around and waiting and put it to use trying to find jobs for jurors. The idea is to turn jury duty into an ongoing job fair, to turn the waiting room for prospective jurors into an employment office. Job-seekers called for jury duty wouldn’t just bring a good book to read, they’d bring their résumés. The time now mostly squandered sitting around would instead be used to try to connect the unemployed with potential employers.

Now that is some thinking going on there. Discuss.


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  • Saccharomyces

    Oh dear, some slack-jawed mouth-breathing Mana/Green/Labour supporter deciding my fate, no thanks!

    • Neil

       What are you up for – will they
      even understand the subtleties of your case….? Go for trial by Judge – always…

      • Saccharomyces

        Not up for anything, nor do I plan to be, but it’s a terrifying thought.

  • In Vino Veritas

    There is a reasonable probability that inconvenience would be replaced by incompetence.

  • Blokeintakapuna

    Great idea!
    It would help NZ Inc increase productivity also – by keeping the employed at work doing their job as well as the huge benefits of giving the unemployed a small stipend as well as a sense of contributing to the wider community in return for their benefit payments.
    Don’t just include the unemployed – extend it to the DPB and those on pensions also.

  • Richard McGrath

    Make the payment for serving on a jury the same as one’s average weekly income for the preceding year, and you will then get people like me interested. As Saccharomyces suggests, we don’t want illiterate brain-damaged drug-addled knuckle scrapers in the jury box making important decisions. 

  • Michael

    I spoke to someone at the Hamilton courts once before about this. The courts aren’t very supportive of this, since the large portion of unemployed do not represent a balance to a person in courts as peers. In order for our court systems to work effectively, a jury needs to provide a balanced cross section of peers to serve in court.  

  • Roy

    Unemployed on the jury would increase the number of acquittals because there’s likely a tendency of bias against the state, kind of a “this bloody government’s responsible for my situation so I’m going to show them”.  Not everyone, of course, but there’d certainly be some with a tendency to think like this, and on juries this would have a significant effect of outcomes overall. Of course, this shouldn’t be the case, but would be the reality.

  • Jury duty might well be a cost, but it is essential to have a broad cross-section of society. I’ve done it, with time off from my job AND when it coincided with my annual leave. Sometimes principles cost. Sure, you could make service compulsory for the unemployed, but there must still be a quota – 80%? – of the employed or employable.

  • toby_toby

    This is a terrible terrible awful idea. I’ve heard many an anecdote from people who’ve had to serve on a jury made up of mouth-breathing dullwits and easily bamboozled little old ladies. Why those people? Because people with jobs get excused from jury service and leave behind the barrel scrapings along with a few gainfully employed who are either unfortunates who got their application to be excused turned down, or they are keen to do their civic duty. This is supposed to be a jury of your peers.

    So, making the unemployed and unemployable do compulsory jury service? Even worse than what we have now.

    PS, if you have the option of a trial by jury or a trial by judge – go for trial by judge.

  • Neil

    So how would this work in the “tried by a jury of your peers” then – might work for lowlifes but a lot on the jury would be anti the whole court sytem – but also not sure about “white collar” stuff… it would be out of the realm of understanding and experience for many.

  • NotLen

    Why not have important trials on in the evening.  Then those of us that work could sit on juries, like we do with sports committees, BOT meetings and the like.

    They could even televise it live.

    • Patrick

       as long as someone got the beers in & a big feed of mackas

  • Saccharomyces

    Hear, hear! I’ve showed up when I’ve been called, but didn’t end up on the trials. Serving in a jury is one of the responsibilities of living in our society.

  • WayneO

    Completely unbalanced juries would result. And a huge amount of not guilty verdicts. Fuck that. I jump at the chance to serve and put some bastard away for a few years.

  • nzd.gbp

    We know there’s a negative correlation between unemployment and IQ and also between criminal activity and IQ, so there’s likely to be a high chance that the jury will be a bigger bunch of criminals than the defendant.

  • Tspoon

    Can you be on the jury and the defendant at the same time? Seems to be the fatal flaw with that little scheme…