Judge Fines Delinquent Jurors
County Courts Cast New Focus on Jury Duty Truancy
On June 11, Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge J. William McLafferty called an Order to Show Cause hearing regarding 19 citizens who failed to appear for three previous jury summons. Order to Show Cause hearings will begin taking place twice a month in order to crack down on the many people who regularly disregard jury summons. Though opportunities are given to postpone or be excused from jury duty, many Californians simply disregard the summons.
California citizens are given three opportunities to reply to a jury summons. The first summons allows persons with legally valid excuses to reply to the court to postpone their jury duty to a time that’s more convenient. If the excuse is invalid, a letter saying so will be issued to the potential juror. After failing to respond to the initial summons, second and third delinquency notices will be issued, which in turn will result in a court hearing. Arrest warrants will be issued to those who fail to appear at the hearing.
Penalties for non-responsive jurors range from fines to jail time. In 14 of the 19 cases heard on June 11, the Judge issued fines ranging from $200 to $350 and an order to report to jury duty within the next 30 days. Superior Court Executive Officer Gary Blair stated in a press release, “The court’s primary goal is to gain compliance rather than sanction non-responsive jurors and to impress upon local citizens the importance of jury duty.”
Blair also said that full compliance of jury summons will result in less frequent summons and a more efficient justice system.