Letters To The Editor


September 22, 2004

Small incentives will not entice reluctant jurors

Baltimore Circuit Judge John C. Themelis is bringing in an expert to determine why those summoned for jury duty don't show up. Other city court officials are also shocked and surprised at how many people fail to appear. But the answer is right in The Sun's article "Frustrated by no-shows, courts sweeten jury duty" (Sept. 16): Fifteen dollars a day simply doesn't cover the expenses incurred in serving on a jury. People are already contributing their time; do they have to contribute dollars as well?

And a close examination of the proposed incentives reveals the following:

Parking discount: This may help, but in other places where I've reported for jury duty, parking is free.

"Free" drink: A free drink isn't really free if you have to buy something to get it - not to mention the hassle of leaving the building and having to go through security on the return trip. There are numerous vending machines in the jury pool waiting area. Why not make those free, or at least provide jurors enough change for a snack and a couple of beverages?

Juror Appreciation Week: Oh, please. People are ignoring notices that include warnings of fines and imprisonment. Are billboards and banners expressing appreciation for jurors really going to make them show up?

Why haven't the courts followed through with one idea that probably would work: blocking no-shows from renewing their driver's licenses or vehicle registrations?

No doubt that would make people think twice about neglecting their summonses.

Bill Ballantyne


Disrespect for jurors makes duty a trial

I read with interest the article "Frustrated by no-shows, courts sweeten jury duty" (Sept. 16). I noticed that one method of enticing jurors to do their civic duty was not even mentioned, and it wouldn't cost a penny more. Why not teach judges to treat jurors with respect?

I speak from experience. Several years ago, I took part in two lengthy jury selection procedures, both conducted by the same judge. This judge took obvious pleasure in ridiculing jurors for not understanding the jury selection process.

Both jury selections began in the morning and continued until at least 7 p.m. The judge could not understand why jurors became restive after spending hours sitting on wooden benches, while her honorable posterior rested on a padded leather chair. As evening approached, she only grudgingly allowed jurors to call to explain that they would be very late getting home.

On a separate occasion, with another judge presiding, a jury (of which I was a member) was forced to spend an entire morning locked inside a hot and filthy jury room in the courthouse annex, while the judge and lawyers discussed the finer points of the law.

On still another occasion I witnessed a judge berate an elderly juror because he got lost in the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse and was late getting to the courtroom.

I get called for jury service approximately every 18 months, and for reasons unknown to me, I have a knack for getting on juries. I have never been a no-show, but I always groan when I see a jury summons in my mailbox, and I treat jury service as an ordeal to be endured. Any pride I once felt in helping support one of our basic rights has long since been replaced by a feeling of apathy and resignation.

Jury assembly rooms have improved markedly in recent years, and that is a major step forward. But there are many more major steps to be taken, and not all of them cost precious dollars.

James Stimpert


This year, security is the critical issue

Andrew Ratner's article "In this year's campaign, it's not the economy, stupid" (Sept. 19) complains that the candidates have forgotten the economy. Thank goodness for that. The No. 1 concern this year is and should be about our nation's security. No multitasking here - if we are not safe and we are subject to terrorist attacks, then the health of our economy is irrelevant.

Just look what happened to our country's economy after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. It does not take rocket science to figure out where our economy would be if we had the same number of terrorist attacks in the United States that are happening in Iraq or Israel.

The news media need to ask the candidates (including those for the House and Senate) tough and relentless questions on how they are going to keep us safe at home, what is their plan to find and deport the illegal aliens that are now among us, and how they plan to secure our borders.

When these issues are addressed, then it's the economy's turn, stupid.

Ron Wirsing

Havre de Grace

Bush squandered world's solidarity

Two Sept. 16 letters were dismissive and even contemptuous of the overwhelming international preference for Sen. John Kerry over President Bush ("Let Kerry campaign in another country"). This overseas preference clearly is a response to Mr. Bush's careless dissipation of the worldwide solidarity felt for the United States over the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

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