Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum
Gnomer9

Jury Duty

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

In our current society the court system uses voter registration to determine who is selected for jury duty. Voting is not mandatory so it leads me to ask the question is registering to vote an agreement between the voter and the court system saying they give their time to be a jury member, or does jury duty go against the principle of service to others according to Objectivism? If the second is true how, in an Objectivist society, would the court system handle selection for trial?

I and a fellow student of Objectivism have tried to determine the answer to this question on our own. I have search the site but was unable to fine much in the way of a clear answer. Between the two of us we think that the first part of my question would be true because of the statement before it, but we seek other views in order to help us get a better understanding.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is an interesting question and I'm glad you brought it up. I'll try to address your questions as best I can.

Is registering to vote an agreement between the voter and the court system saying they give their time to be a jury member, or does jury duty go against the principle of service to others according to Objectivism?
This is a false alternative, just so you know. Firstly, service to others isn't against Objectivism in principle. Rather, Objectivism indicates that service to others isn't mandatory or a primary. If you want to serve others, fine, it simply doesn't entitle you to superior moral status or excuse you from supporting yourself.

Second, I debate whether jury duty could be considered primarily a service to others. It is one of the few opportunities most citizens have to directly engage the process of the law. (Voting is another.) Do you vote because it's good for other people? I think jury duty is the same.

How, in an Objectivist society, would the court system handle selection for trial?

This assumes that trial-by-jury would be maintained in a theoretical Objectivist society. I'll give you my views on the matter:

The practice of dispensing objective justice requires the greatest knowledge, clearest mind, and most professional demeanor it is possible to acquire. While jury selection generally rules out just anyone that wandered in off the street, juries still consist of untrained individuals. I would prefer to adopt a different method, perhaps a tribunal of three judges.

However, as trial-by-jury is the method we have (actually only one of the methods, not all trials are heard before a jury) I will take my opportunity to serve if it comes up.

Now, my evaluation is not necessarily your evaluation: this is an application of Objectivism, not a tenent of Objectivism. The questions you need to ask are:

1. Do I consider serving on a jury to be a positive for me or a negative? Why?

2. If negative, is it enough negative to prevent me from exercising my franchise?

Don't be concerned if you come up with a different answer than your roommate.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Second, I debate whether jury duty could be considered primarily a service to others.  It is one of the few opportunities most citizens have to directly engage the process of the law.  (Voting is another.)  Do you vote because it's good for other people?  I think jury duty is the same.

I would do jury duty in a heartbeat if it paid better. I find it to be an interesting chance to participate in the administration of justice. I see nothing wrong exactly with our current jury system, and if I made a full days wage at it (what do they give you now $18-come on) I would be more than happy to take a break from my normal work to participate. As it is last time I was called I was a waitress, who very likely might lose my job fo missing shifts (they say it's illegal to get fired for attending jury duty-yeah right, not if you're a waitress) so I was unable to stay for the trial. It would have been a sacrifice in that instance, but if I had the free time, or they offered a price to make it worth my time, then it would not be a sacrifice.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
In our current society the court system uses voter registration to determine who is selected for jury duty. Voting is not mandatory so it leads me to ask the question is registering to vote an agreement between the voter and the court system saying they give their time to be a jury member, or does jury duty go against the principle of service to others according to Objectivism?   If the second is true how, in an Objectivist society, would the court system handle selection for trial?

I registered to vote quite some time ago, but I don't remember reading anything about agreeing to perform jury duty. Since that time I have been called to jury duty several times, and I was paid in peanuts for my time--though I did get free parking several blocks away from the courthouse.

I'm not sure whether they explicitly make voters agree to jury duty now. In any case, if you don't sign a contract with the government agreeing to perform jury duty, then it is an initiation of force upon you when they demand that you serve or have a valid excuse for getting out of it. It is an initiation of force similar to involuntary taxation.

In an Objectivist society, it is not clear that there would be a jury system like we have today. However, if there were such a system, it would be handled like all other aspects of governmental operations in an Objectivist society, by paid or unpaid volunteers. If you want to have a good society, then you will volunteer your time to make it good. But nobody will be coerced into supporting, maintaining, or working for the government.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Voting is not mandatory so it leads me to ask the question is registering to vote an agreement between the voter and the court system saying they give their time to be a jury member,

No, and the relationship between registering to vote & being called for jury duty is accidental -- it's just a convenient list of names. You can be called to jury duty if you aren't registered to vote. The legal obligation to serve on a jury comes from a separate law.

in an Objectivist society, would the court system handle selection for trial?

The selection criteria for individuals would be the same as now -- certain facts preclude a person from being a juror (evidence of prejudice), and each side has the right to a certain number of preemptory challenges. The real issue is whether jury service would be forced: it would be voluntary in an Objectivist society. Compulsion is antithetical of Objectivism.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
No, and the relationship between registering to vote & being called for jury duty is accidental -- it's just a convenient list of names.  You can be called to jury duty if you aren't registered to vote.

Most poeple think that jury duty is connected to voter roles because it used to be. The problem was, so few people bothered to vote that the states were recycling names to often. So, like the state of Texas did about 15 years ago, they switched over to the drivers license roles for their pool.

Downside: the nubmer of non-citizens & illegals that have drivers licenses. So, the last 2 times I got called it seemed like I was one of a handful that spoke English as their native tounge. In fact one of the jurors really couldn't understand English at all. We didn't realize this until the 2nd day when they plea bargained the case out.

Compulsion is immoral. The problem with people that are forced is the extremely negative attitude alot of jurors will adopt because of the compunction. Ideally voire dire will clear out these people but still. Slavery has never produced quality work.

On an aside, some municipalities here will go to the Wal Mart and literally draft people straight off the parking lot.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In any democratic country their is an ongoing debate between judgement by a a jury of the people or of professionals.

I didn't give much consideration of it but I think jury by the people for certain cases is a means of democratic control. Instuting professional juries for all cases would lead to the creation of an select group that have power over others lifes. If this group would adopt false metaphysical premises, there would be no way to correct it. With jury duty you have juries from all parts of life, with both feet on the ground, not just from some ivory tower in a law school.

So I think an Objectivist society would have jury duty to make sure justice stays reality-driven.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
In any democratic country their is an ongoing debate [...]

So I think an Objectivist society would have [...]

In the context of Objectivism, which is the context for discussion in ObjectivismOnline, "democracy" is a form of collectivism and therefore bad. Perhaps what you mean is a "constitutional republic," one that has a written constitution guaranteeing individual rights. That is what a political system based on Objectivism would be.

P. S. -- For all new students of Objectivism, you might want to read: "Democracy," The Ayn Rand Lexicon.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Democracy is rule via the collective and thus rule by force - unless a constitution restricts it.

Interestingly the word 'tyranny', commonly viewed as the evil alternative to democracy comes from the Latin 'tyrannos' simply meaning 'master'. Throughout history there have been tyrannies, oligarchies and democracies of varying standards. Napoleon is still looked upon as a national hero by many French and Ho Chi Min, the communist dictator, was considered a benevolent dictator by many. Conversely there have been incidences where democracy has spawned terrible atrocity (the election of Adolf Hitler). The point being that these are all forms of governance and it is excessive governance itself that is the essential evil here.

However. Within the realm of a well defined constitution, the political mechanism most conducive to selection of leaders is democracy - vote of those standing for election. It stands to reason that a group of men held accountable are less susceptible to ruin a countries institutions than an heir, overlord or dynasty. Diversity of potential governors, within the realm of the constitution, is preferable than ruling parties of a single group/source.

It disturbs me to see President Bush proclaim, as he did following his re-election at a press conference with Tony Blair last November, that democracies can't spawn tyrants and that democracies don't like wars. Such view is folly and shows an ignorance of the greatest lessons of 20th century history.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The principle of a Common Law Jury or Trial by the Country was first established on June 15, 1215 at Runnymede, England when King John signed the Magna Carta, or Great Charter of our Liberties. It created the basis for our Constitutional, system of Justice.
In a Constitutional system of justice, such as ours, there is a judicial body with more power than Congress, the President, or even the Supreme Court. Yes, the trial jury protected under our Constitution has more power than all these government officials. This is because it has the final veto power over all "acts of the legislature" that may come to be called "laws".

taken from: http://www.caught.net/juror.htm

This might help you have a better understanding of what it means to be a juror.

I personally think being a juror, as well as knowing my rights as one, is very important. If I had to be on trial I know I would rather have a jury full of fully informed people who think it is important to be there than people who are just there because they couldn't find a way to get out of it.

Objectively speaking, I agree that being forced into it is wrong. I hope this helps you. :thumbsup:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
In the context of Objectivism, which is the context for discussion in ObjectivismOnline, "democracy" is a form of collectivism and therefore bad. Perhaps what you mean is a "constitutional republic," one that has a written constitution guaranteeing individual rights. That is what a political system based on Objectivism would be.

P. S. -- For all new students of Objectivism, you might want to read: "Democracy," The Ayn Rand Lexicon.

Constitutional republic or monarchy. Countries like the USA, UK, Western-European countries. Everywhere where there are free elections, free speach etc. In common language these are called democracies. I didn't know this had another meaning in Objectivism.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Compulsion is immoral. The problem with people that are forced is the extremely negative attitude alot of jurors will adopt because of the compunction. Ideally voire dire will clear out these people but still.  Slavery has never produced quality work.

My thoughts exactly. The notion that we can expect people to exercise their minds for a function as crucially important as ascertaining the facts in a trial while under compulsion is perverse. It is not difficult to imagine jurors becoming complacent and losing interest simply because they legitimately want a week long trial containing complicated, possibly technical issues to be over so that they can return to their lives.

Sadly, our society does not take the attainment of justice seriously. If it did, the government would provide much greater compensation to jurors, at least putting them back in the place they would have been in but for their having been called to jury duty, the government would employ more judges to adjudicate a large backlog of civil cases, prosecutors would not be pressured to try to obtain convictions at any cost (my impression of how it works; I could be wrong), and we would invest more in providing effective assistance of counsel (public defenders) to help ensure that innocent people are not convicted (which is a tremendous societal expense). It might also be easier for judges to overturn jury verdicts in cases where it is blatantly obvious that the jury's decision was arbitrary (jurors admittedly high on cocaine during the trial, etc.). (As I understand it, it is extremely difficult, if not practically impossible to overturn a jury verdict unless jury tampering or the like can be shown.)

This is a very interesting issue, and I have not yet settled on a model for an ideal jury system. Every model I have thought of has negative aspects. However, I am unsatisfied with our current system and I am highly skeptical that it produces as high of a percentage of just results as is reasonably possible given the fact that humans are not omniscient.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Constitutional republic or monarchy. Countries like the USA, UK, Western-European countries. Everywhere where there are free elections, free speach etc. In common language these are called democracies. I didn't know this had another meaning in Objectivism.

The idea of "Democracy" (originally as opposed to commonly-practiced monarchy) is "government by the people". Democracy treats the idea of "majority rule" as primary.

Actually, the idea of individual rights is a more important politcal principle. Protecting the "minority" that is the individual from the powerful "majority".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
However. Within the realm of a well defined constitution, the political mechanism most conducive to selection of leaders is democracy - vote of those standing for election. It stands to reason that a group of men held accountable are less susceptible to ruin a countries institutions than an heir, overlord or dynasty. Diversity of potential governors, within the realm of the constitution, is preferable than ruling parties of a single group/source.

It disturbs me to see President Bush proclaim, as he did following his re-election at a press conference with Tony Blair last November, that democracies can't spawn tyrants and that democracies don't like wars. Such view is folly and shows an ignorance of the greatest lessons of 20th century history.

This is a very interesting issue, and I have not yet settled on a model for an ideal jury system.  Every model I have thought of has negative aspects.  However, I am unsatisfied with our current system and I am highly skeptical that it produces as high of a percentage of just results as is reasonably possible given the fact that humans are not omniscient.

I agree. One of the most disheartening things, as I see it, of this whole war, is the emphasis on Democracy as the means to freedom. In highschool-having been raised and educated on that belief, I also thought that Democracy was the key and that Capitalism was undermining our Democracy. Whereupon reading Ayn Rand I realized Democracy was actually undermining our Capitalism. "There has to be a better way"- I've been saying and thinking about since my highschool government class. Luckily, Objectivism provides a firm foundation for that "better way" and I aspire to, as I learn more about it, formulate a strong idea on all democracy-including trial by jury. But at the current time, I can't think of a better system, and am reluctant to debunk it without a better idea.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If individual rights are protected under the law and the government is limited to its proper functions it really doesn't matter what "system" you use. Constitutional Republic seems like the most functional one.

If you've ever read Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (an EXCELLENT book), there is a lovely quote when they are drafting the constitution for the new government (paraphrased):

"If you deliberate for six months and arrive at nothing but a list of things that government should never do, well, that would be excellent."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

With my personal experience serving on a jury, I can comment directly in agreement with the statements you've made. I served on a jury in a weeklong trial involving child molestation. Aside for the the horrible details about the case specifically, the whole experience left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

My thoughts exactly.  The notion that we can expect people to exercise their minds for a function as crucially important as ascertaining the facts in a trial while under compulsion is perverse.  It is not difficult to imagine jurors becoming complacent and losing interest simply because they legitimately want a week long trial containing complicated, possibly technical issues to be over so that they can return to their lives.

I was called for jury duty when I was on summer vacation from college and had just started a new job. They county said they would compensate me $25 for the first day of service and that my employer would pay me $25 for each of the following days. Since I had only been at my job for less than 3 months, I was still on "probation," consequently they did not provide me compensation for jury service. And I never received the $25 from the county either. So instead of paying me peanuts, they paid me nothing.

For a comment about the complicated, technical issues, the most complicated issues can into play in regard to establishing a particular witness as an "expert". In the context of my case, the "experts" involved were child psychologists dealing with children that had been abused or molested. They lawyers went through an extraordinary lengthy process of establishing the "expertness" of a witness, asking questions that did not pertain directly to the case. Sometimes this would take 3 hours for a single witness.

When they were done, they would ask the judge if the witness could be submitted to the jury as an actual "expert" and the judge would ok it. After the completion of the case, the judge told us (the jury members) that there was no objective legal standard establishing how someone could be an expert, and that experts would almost never rejected.

Sadly, our society does not take the attainment of justice seriously.  If it did, the government would provide much greater compensation to jurors, at least putting them back in the place they would have been in but for their having been called to jury duty, the government would employ more judges to adjudicate a large backlog of civil cases, prosecutors would not be pressured to try to obtain convictions at any cost (my impression of how it works; I could be wrong), and we would invest more in providing effective assistance of counsel (public defenders) to help ensure that innocent people are not convicted (which is a tremendous societal expense).  It might also be easier for judges to overturn jury verdicts in cases where it is blatantly obvious that the jury's decision was arbitrary (jurors admittedly high on cocaine during the trial, etc.).  (As I understand it, it is extremely difficult, if not practically impossible to overturn a jury verdict unless jury tampering or the like can be shown.)
In my particular case, we found the defendant guilty of child molestation. The collective decision of the 12 jurors was not arbitrary, but the decision of some of the individual jurors was. When we first entered the room for deliberation, we took a vote on guilty vs. not guilty. The vote was 8-4 for conviction. After seeing that the majority of people voted guilty, 2 jurors immediately changed their vote, simply because they didn't want to be in the minority! It left me and one other person on the not guilty side.

Most of the people on the guilty side gave horribly subjective arguments to conclude the defendants guilt, things along the lines of "the look in his eye" and "he wouldn't have been arrested if he didn't do it". After about 4-6 hours of debate, I was the last person to finally decide to convict him. I made everyone go over the actual evidence and carefully examine the portions of the case that I took issue with. Out of the 12 people that were on the jury, I would say there were only 3 or 4 that actually thought objectively about the case and were qualified to be on the jury, the rest were sheep.

This is a very interesting issue, and I have not yet settled on a model for an ideal jury system.  Every model I have thought of has negative aspects.  However, I am unsatisfied with our current system and I am highly skeptical that it produces as high of a percentage of just results as is reasonably possible given the fact that humans are not omniscient.

In my case, the final decision was just, but it was not made in the proper manner by all 12 of the jurors. After seeing the other people who served on the jury with me, it scared the hell out of me that there are the type of people that are carrying out justice on a day to day basis.

I think the system falls apart in the jury selection process. Ideally, the purpose of jury selection is to weed out people that may have a bias on one side or the other. But not only are those people weeded out, but so are people who have obvious shreds of intelligence and independence. They lawyers want juries of clay sheep, that they can mold and into any shape and lead into any direction that they choose. These are the juries that they select.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If individual rights are protected under the law and the government is limited to its proper functions it really doesn't matter what "system" you use. Constitutional Republic seems like the most functional one.

Yeah, but "if" clauses are usually written on a large blank check. The reason why it does matter what system you use, is that a democracy stands a very good chance of degenerating into tyrrany and a constitutional republic stands the best chance of adhering to a system where individual rights are protected and government does nothing more than that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Constitutional republic or monarchy. Countries like the USA, UK, Western-European countries. Everywhere where there are free elections, free speach etc. In common language these are called democracies. I didn't know this had another meaning in Objectivism.

The problem in common language is that often "democracy" is a "package-deal" concept, including such things as free elections of public officials while also including such pernicious concepts as absolute majority rule. Unfortunately it is the latter concept (absolute majority rule) that is most often associated with "democracy". Not that it's wrong--that is in fact the original meaning of the term.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
is registering to vote an agreement between the voter and the court system saying they give their time to be a jury member, or does jury duty go against the principle of service to others according to Objectivism?  If the second is true how, in an Objectivist society, would the court system handle selection for trial?

States can and do use other means of jury duty selection. Voter registration is convenient, but technically every citizen is legally required to serve jury duty if called by the court, regardless of voter registration status. Your continued citizenship serves as your agreement to this. To avoid it, you will have to leave the country. I'm not saying that's how it should be, but rather, how it is.

As to the first question: no, jury duty is not a service to others. Your jury duty serves to protect your rights too, not just the rights of others.

However, it is unlikely in our current court system that any honest Objectivist would ever actually be selected for a jury. The first thing that happens during jury selection of a trial is that your principles are identified and, if they do not align with current legal requirements, you are dismissed. Typically, if you make it past 2 or 3 juries without being selected for trial, your jury duty is over and you go home.

I have done just that. In my state, 2 courts can call you for selection, if they both dismiss you, you're done. I was first selected for a DUI trial in which I was asked what I thought of DUI laws (upon my answer, eyes rolled in the court). The second trial was a drug trial, and it went over real big when I looked the judge square in the eye and told him that drugs ought not to be illegal, and basically that the whole trial and its expenses, including his salary, were a waste of my tax dollars. Late in the day, I went home with my $14 check.

I think its a bit premature to ask that last question since an Objectivist society is a ways off. Comtemplating something that is not going to happen soon seems to me time better spent on more immediate matters. For example; precipitating the Objectivist society in the first place :) It's safe to say that courts in a Objectivist society will be far more objective than they are now, such that juries would likely be unnecessary in most cases. Beyond that, I say: there's a lot of steps between here and there, and there's no shortcuts.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Your continued citizenship serves as your agreement to this.  To avoid it, you will have to leave the country.

No, that is totally wrong. You can insert any expression you want into that formula, like "pay taxes", "paint your house whatever color you are told to by the state", "get drafted" and so on. Despite what the statists tell you, citizenship is not evidence of an open-ended agreement to do whatever the government tells you to.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
No, that is totally wrong. You can insert any expression you want into that formula, like "pay taxes", "paint your house whatever color you are told to by the state", "get drafted" and so on. Despite what the statists tell you, citizenship is not evidence of an open-ended agreement to do whatever the government tells you to.

Again, I'm not stating the ideal situation here, just the current status. I did not mean "should be", but "is".

If you don't believe me that you are legally required to serve jury duty, try refusing when you are selected and see what happens.

Like it or not, you are responsible for the actions of the government under which you live, just as much as anyone in the middle east is responsible for the actions of their government.

Under an Objectivist government, of course, there would be no such requirement by the government to serve on juries, and hence no responsibility upon the citizens for that particular use of force.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Again, I'm not stating the ideal situation here, just the current status.  I did not mean "should be", but "is".

Understood: I'm making an "is" statement as well, namely that being a citizen is not an implicit agreement to X, fill in the value. There's no question about there being a legal obligation (well, some people might be confused, but I certainly am not). Legal obligations are not evidence of agreements. Only an actual agreement is evidence of an agreement.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Understood: I'm making an "is" statement as well, namely that being a citizen is not an implicit agreement to X, fill in the value. There's no question about there being a legal obligation (well, some people might be confused, but I certainly am not). Legal obligations are not evidence of agreements. Only an actual agreement is evidence of an agreement.

I disagree. The only way you can avoid it is by evasion. If you know that your government will force you to do jury duty, and you would rather leave the country and you do not, it is only through some means of evading the fact that you will be forced to perform jury duty.

Given the following facts:

1) You live in the U.S.

2) You may be forced to perform jury duty

3) The only way to avoid this use of force is to leave the country

Then you must either: agree to submit to the possbility of that force, or leave the country. There is no way you can stay here and not agree to it unless you evade facts #2 and/or #3.

You have a responsbility to resolve all of facts of reality at your disposal into a unified whole. The fact of jury duty in our society is effectively "given by nature", there is no way you can reshape that fact to suit your needs, in our current society. In order to do that, we must first precipitate the cultural change that Objectivism will inevitably bring. But until then, you can consider fact #2 as given as gravity, and you must deal with it as such.

What you are saying is akin to saying that you know if you walk down a certain street, someone is going to shoot you for it. But since you don't agree to being shot, you're going to walk down the street anyway.... guess what will happen?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Then you must either: agree to submit to the possbility of that force, or leave the country.  There is no way you can stay here and not agree to it unless you evade facts #2 and/or #3.

So your claim seems to simply be that a rational and aware person must agree that laws will probably be enforced, whatever they are, at least to the extent that the government elects to enforce the particular law (and if you resist, you know there may be consequences). I can't disagree with that. Does your claim go beyond that? The citizenship test is what threw me off, because this conclusion would be true even for non-citizens.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I did refuse to be on a jury, about a year ago; nothing has happened to me so far.  Of course, I've moved since then, but they did have about 6 months to come arrest me at my old residence.  I don't remember even receiving a letter of repremand.

You might be surprised. Houston has roundups every year or so. They make a big announcement and then round up people who didn't go to jury duty. Needless to say, it's right around sweeps time and there are camera's to catch all the insanity.

It seems that you have to prove why you weren't at the jury pool that day or else you spend money or time with the guys you would have otherwise been judging. I seem to remember that they also offered to "forgive" people if they served their day in the pool. Any good council has a built in reason for appeal if their client gets convicted.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...