Just received a summons for jury duty today. Not sure if I should be pleased to be doing my civic duty or perturbed that I’m going to be missing five days of work. I’m not a dentist, lawyer, veterinarian etc., so I’m not officially ineligible to serve as a juror. As a self-employed consultant, five days of lost productivity is significant. Maybe it’ll just mean working on my business at night, unless we’re sequestered in some motel where I’m not allowed Internet access. But then, as Admiral Nelson once said [which I had to memorise], “Duty is the great business of a sea-officer; all private considerations must give way to it, however painful it may be.” And it will be painful, as jurors are only compensated $40 per day of duty, less than a teenager flipping burgers.
The summons has raised some issues that I never really gave much time to consider. Why is a dentist ineligible to serve, when most people have a choice of dentists and one dentist being out of the office would not create significant harm to society? The same goes for doctors and veterinarians. I can understand a busy surgeon being exempt, but what about the family practitioner whose office is only open two or three days a week? I also consider my own work history. During my 21 years of active military service I was exempt from jury duty. Other than those periods when I was deployed, I could easily have taken off a week without degrading the operational capacity of the armed forces. There are many desk-bound military personnel who could do the same.
I’m wondering if our justice system needs to get out of the industrial era, “one size fits all”, approach to jury duty. Wouldn’t it make more sense not to provide blanket exemptions for professions, other than those in the justice system itself? I also feel that the $40 per day allowance is a visable indicator of how little our government values jury duty.