Jury Duty And the Administration of Justice in America
Juries are an integral part of the American justice system. This includes criminal trials where someone has been charged with a crime and civil trials where non-criminal matters are decided. As explained in this information page, our court system could not function without the participation of citizen jurors to help ensure the administration of justice.
Right to Trial By Jury
The right to a trial by jury is so important to our democracy that it is included in the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, and in the Oregon Constitution. The reason for this is that we recognize that justice is best administered by a group of citizens acting as the voice of the community. Juries allow for fairness that benefits each side of a case.
“In all civil cases the right of Trial by Jury shall remain inviolate.” – Section 17 to the Oregon Constitution
Why Juries Are Important
In Oregon, those summoned for jury duty are chosen randomly from lists of driver’s license and state identification card holders and lists of registered voters. Among those summoned a portion are chosen to sit on a jury of twelve individuals for a particular trial. These twelve people are a cross-section of our community, each with different backgrounds. This is the best way we know to ensure that the parties in a case get a fair and impartial trial.
“Jurors perform a vital role in the American system of justice. The protection of our rights and liberties is largely achieved through the teamwork of judge and jury who, working together in a common effort, put into practice the principles of our great heritage of freedom. The judge determines the law to be applied in the case while the jury decides the facts. Thus, in a very important way, jurors become a part of the court itself.” – Handbook for Trial Jurors Serving in the United States District Courts
Juries allow for intelligent debate and judgment of the facts of a case by members of the community. By having a mix of citizens on the jury each can evaluate the truthfulness of witnesses and ascertain the facts of the case based on a variety of experiences and perspectives. Juries determine the facts of the case and then apply them to the law of the jurisdiction and render a verdict. By having a group do this instead of one person it is less likely that a single person’s point of view or bias will have an undue effluence on the outcome of the case.
The system only works, however, if people are willing to do their duty and show up for jury service.
On-Line Information About Jury Duty
The Oregon Federal District Court provides information about jury service on its website, including a very well produced video. The website also has a link to “eJuror”, where juror response forms can be filled out for anyone receiving a summons for jury duty in Federal Court. Answers to frequently asked questions about jury duty in federal court are on the page as well.
The Oregon Judicial Department also has a website with jury duty information. It too contains a very well produced video about how juries are picked in Oregon and the process of how the trial proceeds for the jury. This site contains information about employment protections for jurors.