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Unwilling to Go the Distance

October 26, 1986

I recently received a "Dear Citizen" letter, so the article "Avoiding Jury Duty Without Guilt" (by John Dreyfuss, Oct. 8) was of special interest to me.

From my experience I found that "random selection" does not stop with choosing the name of a person from DMV or voter-registration files. On the back of the letter is the real kicker, which states: "A juror may be randomly selected for service in any Superior or Municipal Court in Los Angeles County. However, state law provides that no juror shall be required to serve at a distance greater than 20 miles from his or her residence."

Naively, I thought that my chances would be good for placement in a court reasonably near my residence. But when I received my summons (another "Dear Citizen" letter) it further explained that "random selection is required by law to ensure county-wide community representation on all jury panels at each court location." And guess what? I was assigned to the main court on Temple Street in Downtown L.A.!

I was quite alarmed because, although I am a native of Southern California, I have never driven in Los Angeles, and living mostly in Orange County, have not even commuted there by public bus for over 30 years. Twice I wrote requesting reassignment to a court nearer my home. Both times I was re-quoted the "random selection" process with the added explanation that "exceptions are granted with medical certification of travel restrictions."

Finally, I made an appointment with my physician. Just talking with the doctor about my "chicken" driving ability, my blood pressure was found to be 20 points higher than the normal reading. I got my "excuse" letter and paid $20 for the office visit.

The conclusion I drew from the arbitrary refusal for a change of venue for prospective jurors: Since we are asked to serve up to 10 days (longer when on certain cases) over a three-week period, the law needs to be changed to "service within a 10-mile radius of residency," thus lessening the need for jurors criss-crossing the county at peak traffic hours (court convenes at 8 a.m.). Just that one small change might eliminate many of the "amazing stories" the jury-assignment people have to hear.



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