It’s easy to forget how important the jury really is to America. The right to be a juror is one of the fundamental rights guaranteed to all eligible citizens. The right to trial by jury helped spark the American Revolution, was quickly adopted at the Constitutional Convention, and is the only right that appears in both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. But for most of us, a jury summons is an unwelcome inconvenience. Who has time for jury duty? We have things to do. In Why Jury Duty Matters, Andrew Guthrie...
It’s easy to forget how important the jury really is to America. The right to be a juror is one of the fundamental rights guaranteed to all eligible citizens. The right to trial by jury helped spark the American Revolution, was quickly adopted at the Constitutional Convention, and is the only right that appears in both the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. But for most of us, a jury summons is an unwelcome inconvenience. Who has time for jury duty? We have things to do. In Why Jury Duty Matters, Andrew Guthrie Ferguson reminds us that whether we like it or not, we are all constitutional actors. Jury duty provides an opportunity to reflect on that constitutional responsibility. Combining American history, constitutional law, and personal experience, the book engages citizens in the deeper meaning of jury service. Interweaving constitutional principles into the actual jury experience, this book is a handbook for those Americans who want to enrich the jury experience. It seeks to reconnect ordinary citizens to the constitutional character of a nation by focusing on the important, and largely ignored, democratic lessons of the jury. Jury duty is a shared American tradition. It connects people across class and race, creates habits of focus and purpose, and teaches values of participation, equality, and deliberation. We know that juries are important for courts, but we don’t know that jury service is important for democracy. This book inspires us to re-examine the jury experience and act on the constitutional principles that guide our country before, during, and after jury service.
Former public defender Ferguson (law, Univ. of the District of Columbia; coauthor, Youth Justice in America) offers an inspiring perspective on jury duty. Using a combination of personal narrative, political science, and American history, he moves beyond the simple argument that jury duty is a civic responsibility and something to be endured for the good of the justice system. Instead, Ferguson situates jury duty as an opportunity for citizens to exercise foundational American values such as fairness, equality, participation, deliberation, and liberty. Jury duty brings together people from different races and different classes on equal footing. He explains that through service on a jury, a person can practice skills that are valuable for citizenship. VERDICT Ferguson presents a new kind of handbook for potential jurors. Accessible and easy to read, the book is written for the average citizen who might be called to serve on a jury.—Rachel Bridgewater, Portland Community Coll. Lib., OR
An investigation and celebration of what we so often rue: jury duty. Former public defender Ferguson (Law/Univ. of the District of Columbia) takes jury duty seriously but not in an admonitory, finger-wagging sense. He wants readers to appreciate the brilliance of the jury process as civic engagement, an act of public virtue, due process and accountability. Ferguson witnesses the process daily, and he serves it forth here to readers with enthusiasm: "I watch as constitutional ideals such as civic participation, deliberation, fairness, equality, liberty, accountability, freedom of conscience, and the common good come alive through the practice of ordinary citizens." In each chapter, the author takes a constitutionally grounded principal and shows how it applies to jury duty. Jury participation teaches the skills required for democratic self-governance, it acquaints jurors with the rule of law and it promotes the equality of ideas. Ferguson is an artful booster for community involvement and social connection and an advocate for the ability to challenge any perceived infringement of rights; a copy of the Constitution is always ready at his hand. This is a book that makes you feel good about a system that requires this type of participation, in which we must reflect with clarity on the guilt or innocence of an individual. A genuine encouragement that speaks to the role juries play in our constitutional structure.