University students should not be subject to jury summons
Published: Friday, October 18, 2013
Updated: Friday, October 18, 2013 17:10
For full time university students, many of whom have jobs and families and so many other obligations, there is just no reasonable way for us to check out of our normal lives to serve on a jury.
Last semester, I got my first jury summons for local jury duty and immediately began freaking out. I mean, it is illegal to skip out on jury duty, right? But how was I supposed to manage skipping class that frequently, even for a short amount of time, without failing?
Luckily I was able to be moved to the reserve list and did not actively serve.
However, just a couple of weeks ago, I was sent the requisite questionnaire for federal jury duty, which means that my information will now be put into a smaller pool for the federal court to draw its jurors from.
On a federal jury duty questionnaire for the state of Arkansas, there are three unconditional exemptions from serving jury duty: those over the age of 70, those who have served on an active jury within the past two years, or those who serve the community in a volunteer capacity, such as a volunteer firefighter.
All other excuses, such as being a student, must be written in and it is left to the discretion of the court whether the excuse is valid or not.
By law, schools are required to excuse students to serve on a jury and allow them to make up any work missed.
However, there is absolutely no way for students to make up missed lectures should they get called. It is unreasonable to think that a student can step away from a lecture based class for more than a single class meeting without it affecting that student’s grade.
There is no substitute for being in class; if there were, wouldn’t it make more sense for all classes to be conducted online?
But, in case I am being unreasonable in wanting out of jury duty, I decided to poll my friends and family and got several responses in return.
“It is your civic duty!” “It is easy and you get paid for it.” “We are old enough to get jury duty?” “I’ve never had jury duty. Stop texting me at midnight!”
Possibly the best argument I’ve heard for college students serving on juries is that the courts are looking for educated, unbiased thinkers.
By the very nature of being students, we are in the practice of being analytical in looking for answers. And, yes, college students on the whole are probably less likely to make a decision based on preconceived notions of societal rights and wrongs.
But if that is what the courts are looking for, would it not be better to try and fill jury seats with recent college graduates rather than students who are putting a lot of money into classes that they would be missing?
I understand that it is civic duty, and were I not enrolled full time, I would have no problem whatsoever serving.
But the fact is, that I am. And because being a student is not an automatic exemption, I have to go through the headache of proving why I should be excused, as if there is someone who may not consider it a legitimate excuse.
That, added to a full course load, just seems like an unnecessary stress to put on students. The last thing any of us need in our lives is more stress.