Trials & Litigation

Judge Sends Out Court Summonses to 100 Residents Who Failed to Appear for Jury Duty


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In 20 years on the bench, a Washington state judge says, he’s never used a court summons and threat of criminal prosecution to deal with jury-service scofflaws.

But he’s doing so now, Okanogan County Superior Court Judge Jack Burchard tells the Wenatchee World, because so many county residents feel free to ignore calls to appear for jury duty.

Of 240 individuals who received notices to show for service in September, about 100 failed to appear. So Burchard has issued them court summonses requiring them to come to court on Nov. 5 and explain their earlier absence. Those who don’t will get criminal court summonses, served by sheriff’s officers. Ignoring jury service, as the court summonses points out, is a misdemeanor which can result in a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

“I’m hoping if we get everybody’s attention, our response rate is going to go up quite a bit,” the judge said.

Although he plans to retire in December, he said he was spurred into action both by the high rate of no-shows, questions from jurors at a recent trial who wondered what would happen to those who didn’t appear, and comments of friends who told him they felt free to trash jury duty summonses because there would be no penalty for doing so.

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