By Doryn Danner Glenn
“You have been summoned for jury service.” The feelings evoked when reading those words on an envelope pulled from the mailbox vary from person to person. Some are excited about the prospect of experiencing the court system in such a vital role. Others dread the thought of making a decision that impacts someone else in a powerful way. Still others worry about the costs of missed work or the hassles of juggling schedules.
For those who actually attend when summoned, the process itself can be overwhelming and frustrating. Parking can be expensive or difficult to find. Hours may pass without getting information about why there is delay. Food and drink may not be readily accessible. The experience can also be very rewarding and one that allows citizens to observe and participate in the justice system in a new and exciting way.
The State Bar of Texas Jury Service Committee’s purpose is to concern itself with improving the manner in which jurors are treated within the judicial process, including compensation, and developing and implementing programs to ensure broad citizen participation in and support for our jury system.
One of the ways that the committee hopes to “improve the manner in which jurors are treated” is to promote and support Jury Appreciation Week. The 84th Texas Legislature designated the first week in May as Jury Appreciation Week, “in recognition of the outstanding and important contributions made by Texas citizens who serve as jurors.” For the inaugural year in 2016, the committee created and distributed stickers (which read, “Jury Duty, A Texas Tradition”), similar to the “I Voted” stickers, for courts to provide to jurors serving during that week. The sticker templates are still available and counties can even print them for jurors throughout the year if they wished. The State Bar is willing to mail stickers to counties upon request at no cost.
The committee has developed a Jury Appreciation Week Guide. This guide is intended to assist those who interact with jurors by providing information about, and ideas about how to celebrate, Jury Appreciation Week. The guide also advises of resources provided by the bar, such as public service announcements and articles about jury service. There are many ways to celebrate jurors during Jury Appreciation Week, but a few that may be easy, impactful, and cost effective are as follows:
- Speakers: Welcoming speakers during Jury Appreciation Week is a great way to provide information to the jurors while also encouraging community involvement in the jury selection process. Local leaders, celebrities, and even court staff can serve in this role. Be aware that speakers who promote one perspective and who might influence the jurors during that week should be strictly avoided.
- Refreshments: Offering light refreshments of some sort is an easy way to show appreciation to jurors. It can offer yet another opportunity to encourage community involvement by allowing local restaurants to participate in a good cause that can also bring them a little free publicity. Always make sure that items served are well-marked so as to avoid any issues with food allergies.
- City and/or County Proclamations: Proclamations serve to promote and support Jury Appreciation Week while also helping to further inform the general public of the importance of jury service. Proclamations can be framed and displayed in the jury gathering space for all to enjoy.
- Public Service Announcements/Press Releases: These can truly offer a means to spread the word about Jury Appreciation Week (and why it was created) without breaking the bank. It offers yet another opportunity for community involvement and support as you reach out to local newspapers, radio stations, and online news services for their assistance.
The right to a trial by jury is a fundamental one. It is important that we appreciate those who serve not only with words, but also with improvements to the process, and other method of recognition, whenever possible. Recognizing and celebrating Jury Appreciation Week is just one of many ways for genuine thanks to be expressed to the citizens who step forward to perform one of the most valuable services in our justice system.
For more information on the State Bar’s jury service resources, to request stickers for Jury Appreciation Week, or to access the Jury Appreciation Week Guide, please go to www.texasbar.com/juryservice.
Doryn Danner Glenn is the chief deputy district clerk in the Galveston County District Clerk’s Office and a member and past chair of the State Bar of Texas Jury Service Committee.