PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A Somerset County man who allegedly skipped out on jury duty nearly a dozen times got busted while trying to get help from a judge on another issue.
He was forced to pay a $500 fine.
So what really happens when you don’t show up for your civic duty?
It’s a citizen’s duty — serving on a jury — and for those accused of crimes a constitutional right.
“It’s extremely important that we have enough people to serve at any given time when a party elects to have a jury trial,” Claire Capristo told KDKA’s Jon Delano. “It’s an important part of our democracy and our justice system.”
Capristo is the Allegheny County court administrator, and she knows with over 40 county judges and lots of juries called at the same time, the system functions only because citizens don’t shirk that duty.
“They receive in the mail a summons and a questionnaire. It tells them when they’ve been summoned to appear. We usually do that six to nine weeks out from the date,” she said.
Names are randomly drawn by computer from PennDOT lists of drivers and the county’s voters.
Capristo says she wants citizens to be up-front on their ability to serve.
“We try to make the system as flexible as we can because we recognize that people are busy and that this could be an impediment to their job, their family responsibilities, and the like to serve,” Capristo said.
But there are those who toss the summons away and are no-shows.
“We do get no-shows and what we basically do is put them back into the pool,” she said.
That means they will get summoned again and again right away until they respond. Each failure to respond could cost the no-show $500 and 10 days in jail.
It turns out that jury duty in the federal court system is a bit tougher than in the courts of common pleas of Pennsylvania.
You might get away with ignoring the first or second federal summons to jury duty. But you ignore that third summons from the feds, you might have a federal marshal at your door.
Federal officials say no-shows are extremely rare.
Capristo says Allegheny County’s new system of being on-call as a juror for just one day has reduced the no-shows.
“They come in and are not selected on that one day, their jury service is done,” she said.
Making it harder than ever to ignore jury service.