Survey: Dreaded Jury Duty Not So Bad


Monday, August 14th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


BOSTON (AP) — Reporting for jury duty elicits plenty of gripes — hours spend waiting, lawyers' ugly ties, messy jury rooms, paying for parking at the courthouse.

But in Massachusetts, at least, jurors recently surveyed said they mostly enjoyed their civic responsibility of weighing court cases and judging their peers.

More than 80 percent of respondents to a survey published in Monday's edition of Lawyers Weekly found their experience positive, and some said it renewed their faith in the legal system.

Publisher David L. Yas was surprised by the results.

``Most people dread jury duty,'' Yas said. ``What we found is that once people get in there, they're intrigued by the case, energized by jury duty, and overall find duty quite positive.''

In Massachusetts, it is illegal for attorneys to speak with jurors even after a court case.

So, with the permission of State Jury Commissioner Frank Davis and Superior Court Chief Justice Suzanne V. DelVecchio, 30 judges gave out surveys to jurors in superior court cases. About 130 people responded. All responses were voluntary and anonymous.

The cases ranged from contract disputes to medical malpractice to first degree murder. One involved a lawsuit about a dog biting another dog.

The survey asked questions about courtroom tactics, the condition of the courthouse, the appearance and demeanor of lawyers and court employees, the use of witnesses and exhibits, and jurors' overall impression of the system.

Some respondents reported trouble sleeping at night because of the gravity of the cases they heard. Many felt proud of being part of the justice system. Most found the whole process a learning experience.

``Our justice system may not be perfect, but it works and I am proud to have served,'' one respondent wrote.

``After several cases such as the O.J. Simpson trial, I lost all respect for the system. This case helped restore my respect for the system. There is hope for us,'' another wrote.

Not every survey returned to Lawyers Weekly reported a positive experience.

``Some complained about having to clean up the jury room, not being reimbursed, not having water, and lawyers having bad ties,'' Yas said.

``It was not only a waste of my time, but the compensation was ridiculous,'' one juror wrote.

``Jurors should not have to clean up their jury room. They should not have to pay for their parking or gas, and they should be treated with more respect,'' another said.

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On the Web: Lawyers Weekly: http://www.masslaw.com