State missing out on money when person skips jury duty

The I-Team looked into what would happen if someone skips jury duty (WFSB)

Many people, like Leah Maille, aren’t sure what would happen if they skipped out on their jury duty summons.

“I don't know what would happen, so I just did what I had to do,” Maille said outside of Superior Court in Middletown.

The Eyewitness News I-Team did some digging, looking to find out what the state does if someone called for jury duty just doesn’t show up.

“To me, serving jury service is as important as voting,” said Connecticut Jury Administrator Esther Harris.

She told the I-Team the state summoned more than 585,000 jurors.

More than 90 percent showed up at the court house when they were supposed to. Those that didn't got a reminder.

“They will get a warning notice saying your date was such and such, you didn't show, and you need to contact our office,” Harris said.

Sometimes even that doesn't work. Last year, 43,826 people didn't show up for jury duty at all.

“You have a full year to respond to your summons, so if those individuals’ year goes by without them responding, they're sent to the attorney general's office,” Harris said.

The law says no-shows could be fined $125 each, so the I-Team turned to the Attorney General's Office to see what they do.

It turns out, they do nothing.

They sent the I-Team a letter from 2011, saying the current statute is legally unenforceable because jury notices go by regular mail, so there's no way to prove they were received.

The office also said they think the law is missing a way for no-shows to fight the fine and they say they don't have the resources to chase people for money.

No changes were made by lawmakers, but that may be leaving a lot of money on the table even if many of the names on the list of no-shows belong to people who have moved or have another valid reason for not appearing.

The fine allowed by law is $125 per person, so if the Attorney General’s Office found even a 1/4 of the no-shows and fined them, that's well over $1 million.

The Attorney General’s Office doesn't say exactly how the law should be changed to be more effective, and they wouldn't comment further on the matter.

For their part, the Judicial Branch says the 7 percent no-show rate is actually quite good compared to other states, and say they're generally happy with the rate of participation with the courts.

Copyright 2017 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


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