Here we are… it’s Monday! Is this how you felt this morning?
At the beginning of every jury trial, I always start by thanking each jury member for taking the time to be there. I sometimes wonder if they think that it is just my memorized introduction. They would not think that, if they saw Sunday’s edition of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The article (here) is titled, “Jury duty no-shows in Chesterfield are causing trial delays – now the no-shows may get fined, too”.
But here’s what the reporter is saying. There were 373 summoned Chesterfield residents who initially failed to appear for jury duty in 2017 and January, 2018. Ultimately, 103 showed up to explain to the judge why they failed to report for jury duty. So far, the court has entered dollar judgments against 24 people. Some of those judgments are as high as $200.
I have previously blogged about having a trial continued in Chesapeake, Virginia, because they did not have enough jurors show up for court. In Chesterfield, the no-shows are a cause of growing concern in Chesterfield. Court personnel reports having to sometimes scramble to find enough people to seat juries. One November jury trial was canceled because of no-shows.
In the article, Chesterfield Sheriff Karl Leonard was quoted as noting that, “It’s a huge problem. It really delays justice.” He also went on to discuss that some Chesterfield’s circuit judges have indicated they may want him to send deputies to pick up prospective jurors from their homes or workplaces, if enough don’t show up for jury duty.
The Henrico Chief Judge has indicated they they are fortunately not having the same issue. “We just have not had a problem,” said Chief Henrico Circuit Judge James Yoffy, “We do have a good system out here.” Petersburg Circuit Court recorded the third-highest number of juror absences in the region — 312.
Just a quick note on the process from our end. We set a court date that is sometimes almost a year away. Then, we make arrangements with witnesses and send out subpoenas. As to doctors who are going to testify, we subpoena them and then sometimes are also required to pay them a NON-REFUNDABLE trial testimony retainer payment.
If it is a very busy doctor in a specialized area of medicine, that retainer could be $5000-$10,000. Getting on their schedules and then paying large retainers to doctors is expected. Then… you truly hope that all scheduling will work and that everyone will show up, so the trial can go forward. Delay is normally good for the defense because it means that the defendant can put off responsibility for the harms, for a little longer.
Unfortunately, if a trial is continued, it’s not just a matter of showing up the next day. Those days are already pre-scheduled. It’s once again trying to get back on the Court’s docket. It usually means going downstairs to the Clerk’s office and hoping to get back on a little sooner than it originally took to schedule.
But… those non-refundable retainers to the doctors are usually gone. For the next court date, it takes more non-refundable retainers.
That’s why my beginning remarks to jurors are truly from a place of thankfulness! Even though this is how some might be thinking:
And for pic o’ day…