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Crackdown on Jury Summons

November 26, 1995

Re "Jury-Summons Scofflaws Now Face $1,500 Fine," Nov. 16:

Given the current system, those people who don't ignore a jury summons will most likely wish that they did. After doing my "civic duty" last month Downtown, I can only tell you that jurors are abused by a poorly managed process that treats jurors exactly as if they are worth the $5-per-day pay rate.

I suggest Presiding Superior Court Judge Gary Klausner do a little bit of managing by walking around and actually visit the juror assembly rooms at the criminal, civil and county court buildings in Downtown Los Angeles. There he will find hundreds of people "doing time" for days on end. Only a minority of folks are even called to be "interviewed" for a panel--and far fewer still actually sit on a case. Much more common, at least in my experience, is to spend the day "Waiting for Godot" and be dismissed in late afternoon after having done nothing.

The problem isn't getting more people to show up; it's in making much better use of those people who do. If citizens believed their time would be well spent, they'd probably be much more likely to comply with a summons.

RICHARD PUZ

Los Angeles

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If you really believe that the new "Jury Policy With Some Teeth" (editorial, Nov. 17) will significantly increase the number of individuals available for jury trials, you are engaging in wishful thinking. There will be a small increase. But most citizens who do not serve do so with good reason. This extends beyond the lofty sum of $5 per day and horrendous cattle car parking arrangements for jurors in downtown Superior Court.

The new law will not result in more representative juries; in fact, it will bog down the system. Individuals who until now simply ignored a jury summons will appear as ordered, and, if they have half a brain, will be able to get themselves excused during the voir dire. Doesn't that leave the court system exactly where it started?

You say "American citizens are rarely required to perform any civic duty . . ."'; we pay exorbitant taxes and that should be sufficient for those who choose to make it so.

RON JAHN

Los Angeles

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The "three strikes" law could soon lead to an annual jury summons to all registered voters and vehicle owners in L.A. County to meet the severe juror shortage due to the burgeoning case load. Had the "three strikes" voters considered the effect on their personal time, we doubt that the initiative would have passed.

PHIL and MARY ELLEN BARNES

San Pedro

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Of course L.A. County is ready to go the additional mile to assure prompt delivery of jury summons with a $1,500 penalty attached; i.e., hand-delivery or certified mail. Reliance on the U.S. Postal Service is not recommended. One summons recently sent to a resident of this household arrived after its date to respond.

LOUIS M. ST. MARTIN

Pomona

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