Study: Too Many Californians Are Ignoring Jury Duty

If you’ve ever avoided that jury summons like the plague, you’re hardly alone. A new study released last week shows that about one-fifth of Californians in the state’s most populous counties fail to respond to jury duty—a trend which experts find extremely troubling.

“Too many Californians are failing to participate when called to serve on a jury, and it is harming our system of justice,” said the California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, which issued the report.

The information is based on an analysis of failure-to-appear rates in 14 California counties last year. According to the survey, more than 7.5 million jury summonses were issued in the 14 counties in 2014. Of those, nearly 1.5 million people failed to show, and that doesn’t even include the 982,000 notices which were returned as non-deliverable.

Ventura County had the highest rate of no-shows, with over 45 percent of its citizens failing to heed their jury summons. San Diego County followed close behind with a failure-to-appear rate of 31 percent, just above Los Angeles’ 30 percent. San Joaquin residents were the most likely to appear, with just 3.9 percent skipping jury duty.

No-shows are more common in urban communities, where moving occurs more frequently. A 2010 ACLU study also found wide racial disparity; just 8 percent of African-Americans in Alameda County report for jury service.

Leah Wilson, executive officer of the Alameda County courts, says employers’ refusal to compensate workers for jury duty has a disproportionate effect on minorities’ ability to report for the service. That affects the racial composition of juries, which poses “a huge concern of our bench,” Wilson said. A one-year-old pilot program has already increased jury participation at Alameda County’s Hayward courthouse. The initiative, which contacts no shows and imposes a series of escalating fines, may soon be expanded countywide.

Read more about the recent study of jury participation rates in California here.