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Stamp of Approval for Jury Service

Posted Sep 5, 2007 8:15 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Copyright USPS

Robert J. Grey Jr. has never been on a jury, but it’s not for a lack of trying.

The former ABA president made strengthening juries one of his priorities during his tenure, and he takes jury duty seriously. Last year he filled out his jury questionnaire and walked it over to the courthouse, but was told he didn’t need to bother since lawyers are exempt from service in Virginia.

True, but that may change due to the work of Grey and two ABA groups he created. Among the jury principles approved by the ABA's House of Delegates in February 2005 is a recommendation that eligibility for jury service should not be denied based on occupation. “You aren’t getting a trial of your peers unless everyone gets a chance to serve,” he says.

One of Grey's groups, the ABA Commission on the American Jury Project, has had another recent success: It nudged the U.S. Postal Service to issue a stamp commemorating jury duty. It will be formally issued at a courthouse ceremony at Manhattan’s Foley Square on Sept. 12.

Grey will be there along with Chief Judge Judith Kaye of New York’s Court of Appeals, who was one of three co-chairs of the commission. Kaye was “the primary mover and shaker” behind the stamp, according to Grey.

Serving on a jury is “a chance to participate firsthand in democracy,” Grey says. He says it’s unfortunate that not everyone sees it that way. “We’ve created a culture where people view jury service as a burden as opposed to a high calling of citizenship,” he says.

The stamp is intended to emphasize the importance of jury service by depicting a diverse group of 12 representative jurors.

The stamp designer, Lance Hidy, has never been on a jury either. “I tried, but the judge didn't want me,” he says.

Hidy says he used staff and students as models from the college where he teaches. He designed the typeface, called Penumbra, which was also used for titles in the movie, The Da Vinci Code.

“Stamps, at their best, can remind a nation—and the rest of the world—what values its citizens hold most sacred,” he said in an e-mail. “And there is little in our vast, imperfect government that is considered more precious than the jury system. I am very proud to have played a small role in the creation of this stamp.”

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