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Facts Are Presented and Verdict Is In: The Jury Process Needs Improvement

Having just served 26 days on jury duty on a civil case in Orange County, I have some simple suggestions that may help speed up the process and make it a little more fair for the jurors.

I’m not picking on the judge, lawyers or jurors. All conducted themselves in a professional manner, and I was truly impressed with their conduct. However, here are my suggestions:

* Folks, let’s get organized: The jurors were requested to come in Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each week from the first week in September to the middle of November. During that time, there were at least two or three days wasted because witnesses couldn’t or didn’t show up at the right time. Negotiations taking place in the judge’s chambers between lawyers accounted for many of these lost hours, while jurors just sat and waited and waited. The jurors seemed to be the only ones who stuck to a timetable. However, it seemed as though everyone else was in suspended animation and in a slow-motion mode.

* Don’t allow attorneys to take vacations during the trial: Serving on a jury puts a tremendous amount of pressure on a person. They suffer, their job suffers, their family suffers, their boss may give them a bad time, and it seems that no one takes these things into consideration. Fourteen families are put on hold, thrown into confusion, disrupted from their normal daily activities and their jury time extended an extra two weeks because one of the attorneys had to take a two-week vacation. An emergency visit to the hospital or some other family emergency would not have been questioned by anyone. But a vacation! Give me a break.

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* Hour-and-a-half lunch recess: One-hour lunch recess for the judge and the attorneys is sufficient. The other half-hour should be used for internal discussions, changes in schedules, side-bar negotiations, getting witnesses prepared, etc. They shouldn’t wait and come back after an hour-and-a-half lunch recess to do these things while the jurors wait and wait some more.

* The jurors’ waiting room: Please have a newspaper subscription available to help pass the time of day. And change the magazines. Some of them are advertising 1988 automobiles. The Newport Municipal Court on Jamboree and Birch, where I served on this case, had a jurors’ waiting room that was locked most of the day. There wasn’t any coffee. They didn’t have a TV. It was almost like being punished while you were trying to do your civic duty.

* Mileage: They pay you mileage to get from your home to the court, but they don’t pay you to get from the court back home at the end of the day. None of us could figure that out. With all the inconvenience the juror has to put up with during the trial, you would think they would at least pay your way home.

* Place a time limit on civil cases: Be reasonable. Be fair. But place some kind of a sliding time schedule and limit the number of days a person has to present material in a civil case. This may be radical thinking, but maybe a person wouldn’t have to wait five years to have their “day in court” like it is now.

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All in all, it was a very worthwhile experience. I and all the other jurors were proud to do our civic duty and serve. I met a lot of wonderful people and will think of them often. I’m looking forward to serving again . . . maybe in 10 or 15 years.

Now, remember the admonition: You are not permitted to read or discuss this material outside the courtroom, nor are you to make or draw any conclusions before all the evidence and facts are presented--in other words, wait until after you have had jury duty!

GUY CARROZZO, Fountain Valley


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