Posts Tagged ‘CALA in the News’

Hazel Meaux, guest columnist: Arbitration can prevent lawsuit abuse, bring quicker legal resolution

Via the Waco Tribune

Nice guys finish last. Revenge is sweet. Paybacks are a real, well, you know. If you’ve ever found yourself involved in a lawsuit, those expressions may hit a little too close to home.

When it comes to legal disputes, civility doesn’t always win the day. Legal battles can often turn contentious, and many people involved in long, costly lawsuits likely find themselves wishing the dispute never happened.

And while everyone deserves justice and, as the saying goes, “their day in court,” not every dispute must see the inside of a courtroom. In fact, in many disputes, there’s a better path forward to settle differences and make affected parties whole.

Arbitration is a voluntary, out-of-court method for dispute resolution, one where both sides makes their case to a neutral, independent arbitrator whom they mutually select. It’s typically a faster, simpler, fair and less expensive alternative to litigation.

Many arbitrators are retired judges, and many have training and expertise specific to the types of disputes they handle. An arbitrator’s decision is called an “award.” Awards are made in writing and are generally final and binding on the disputing parties. The awards can bestow the same type of damages a claimant could seek in court.

Because arbitrators reach decisions promptly after disputing parties provide their facts and arguments, the parties can get decisions more quickly and efficiently than in court.

The only ones arbitration isn’t good for are personal-injury lawyers. The more disputes resolved through arbitration or other alternative dispute options, the fewer lawsuits there are and the less personal-injury lawyers make in fees.

So it should come as no surprise that some personal-injury lawyers oppose arbitration as an alternative to a full-blown trial. It’s a classic case of some lawyers wanting to use our courts for greed, not justice.

America’s litigation system already costs families and small businesses thousands per year on average, and if some personal injury lawyers get their way, it could end up costing even more. That’s because these lawyers want to take away our access to arbitration and other alternative dispute resolution options.

What are they fighting against? They’re waging war on consumers, taxpayers and many businesses, quite frankly.

According to the American Arbitration Association, arbitrations can reach a final decision on average a full year faster than it takes for court cases to reach a final judgment. Another study found the median length of time from the filing of an arbitration demand to the final award in domestic, commercial cases was just less than eight months. By contrast, the typical length of time from filing a lawsuit through trial of civil cases can be three years or more.

And the fact is, arbitration is a process supported by our courts. The U.S. Supreme Court has on multiple occasions endorsed arbitration as being effective and a fair alternative dispute resolution process.

Arbitration is pro-consumer, too. Outcomes for consumers through arbitration are similar to those reached through the court system. According to the National Arbitration Forum, a consumer who would have won a case in court or received a favorable settlement is at least as likely to achieve the same result in arbitration. So lawsuit reform organizations like ours want to educate and empower consumers and small businesses about the benefits of arbitration.

Smart legal consumers know our courts should be used for justice, not greed. And, oftentimes, justice can be found just as easily away from a courtroom and around a table where all parties can mutually agree to settle their differences with the guidance from a well-trained, specialized judge arbitrator.

Hazel Meaux is a board member of Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse.

GAYLE: Asbestos reform needed to protect legitimate claims

via The Pasadena Citizen

Double dips are good when you’re talking about ice cream. Unfortunately, over the last several years double dipping of another kind has allowed unscrupulous personal injury lawyers to enrich themselves by abusing our lawsuit system.

Simply put, some personal injury lawyers are gaming the lawsuit system, manipulating it by “double dipping” in asbestos litigation so that they can increase their profits. The Texas Legislature is right to take a closer look at ways to rein in this fraud and abuse and make sure our courts are used for justice, not greed.

“Double dipping” in asbestos cases occurs when personal injury lawyers sue a company and claim its products harmed their clients and also file claims with asbestos trusts telling a different story and blaming other products for the same exact harm.

This abuse of our lawsuit system allows personal injury lawyers to get multiple payouts for the same injury while reducing the resources available in the trusts to compensate those who have been truly injured by asbestos exposure – many of whom are veterans.

Our state has long been a leader in lawsuit reform, and putting an end to the abuses in asbestos litigation is something that I believe can and should find broad support at the Capitol and in communities all across our state.

A decade ago, Texas passed comprehensive asbestos litigation reform that eliminated bogus claims while ensuring that truly sick Texans could have their lawsuits resolved in a timely manner.

Undeterred in their quest to enrich themselves by abusing the lawsuit system, some personal injury lawyers pulled new tricks out of their sleeve, exploiting loopholes in the system that allow this “double dipping” to occur. It’s a problem not unique to Texas – in fact, many media outlets have reported on the asbestos double dip in recent years.

Texas lawmakers are advancing House Bill 1492 by Rep. Doug Miller and Senate Bill 491 by Sen. Charles Schwertner to stop this abuse. The proposal would require a plaintiff’s lawyer in an asbestos lawsuit to file claims with a bankruptcy trust, where injured individuals will receive the fastest compensation, before they can pursue additional litigation. It delivers transparency and discourages double dipping.

We can all agree that Texans harmed by asbestos deserve compensation and they deserve it be delivered fairly and swiftly. Greed is a great motivator, though, and these lawsuits can be extremely lucrative for lawyers. So, whether a claim is filed today or years from now, an injured Texan shouldn’t have to worry about resources reserved for paying claims in the asbestos trusts being depleted or reduced by greedy personal injury lawyers.

The reform measures from Rep. Miller and Sen. Schwertner are the sort of smart-minded and balanced legislation worthy of bipartisan support.

After all, two scoops are better than one for ice cream, but it’s not something we should allow our courts and personal injury lawyers to dip into.

DeWitt Gayle is Chairman of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse of Central Texas (CALACTX)

Keep fighting lawsuit abuse

via San Antonio Express News

Texas has been on the front lines in the battle against the abuse of our lawsuit system, ensuring it is used for justice, not greed.

Years ago, Texas was known as the “Courthouse of the World” because our lawsuit system invited junk lawsuits, and our system was clogged with abusive lawsuits filed by lawyers who flocked here for personal gain.

Seeing how this abuse hurt our economy, everyday Texans demanded reform, which led to reforms restoring fairness and common sense to our lawsuit system.

But when your opponents are well-funded trial lawyers, you cannot rest on past success. Seeking a return to the old days, trial lawyers have found loopholes and work-arounds to the reforms.

For all the progress Texas has seen over the past decade with these reforms, there remains much work to be done. During the 2015 legislative session, our state representatives must pass additional reforms to preserve our stellar reputation for a legal climate that promotes job creation, new investment and economic growth.

One of the areas where trial lawyers have found a new way to abuse the system is by exploiting a loophole in laws governing who can file lawsuits in Texas courts. This loophole risks taking Texas back to the days when it was the “Courthouse to the World.”

A bill to fix this, HB 1692, is pending in the legislature. It would close this loophole and ensure that the lawsuits brought in Texas belong in our courts. This would also prevent Texas citizens from being denied justice because a court is clogged by cases that do not belong here.

Beyond the onslaught of lawsuits filed here under questionable jurisdiction and standing, there is evidence of abuse elsewhere in the lawsuit system.

Consider what a lawsuit abuse watchdog group found following two hailstorms in Hidalgo County in the spring of 2012.

A study commissioned by the Rio Grande Valley Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse found that nearly half of all hailstorm lawsuits were filed in March and April of 2014, as the statute of limitations neared.

Of the 5,740 hailstorm cases filed in Hidalgo County, 2,513 were filed in March and April of 2014. Even more troubling, the study revealed that this rush involved a small number of law firms.

Finally, we are watching developments on a move to increase the number of jurors in county court at law cases – from six to 12 — in civil cases where more than $200,000 is in dispute, a smart move that will create consistency across our court system.

Two decades after the legal reform movement was born in Texas, those in the trenches know we have to remain vigilant. A lawsuit system free of abusive lawsuits ensures access to speedy trials for legitimate claims, and that encourages civic participation on juries, which is good for every Texan.

Hazel Meaux is with Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse.

Legal Reform is Missing Piece in Florida

Via Sick of Lawsuits

 

Guest post written by Jennifer Harris, CALACTX Spokesperson. 

Florida governor Rick Scott recently announced his plans to visit Pennsylvania, among a handful of other states he’s targeted –  New York, Illinois and California to start –  as part of a strategy to lure businesses and jobs to Florida and boost the state’s economy. Scott’s pitch showcases Florida as a low-tax, lightly regulated destination where companies can thrive. Sound familiar? This is a play borrowed straight from Texas governor Rick Perry, known for his sweeping legal reform packages that gave Texas a “posterchild” status when it comes to creating a business-friendly environment.

States like New York, Illinois and California have treacherous legal environments chalk full of abusive lawsuits that increase prices and prevent businesses from being able to create new jobs. Governor Perry saw this as an opportunity to aggressively pursue companies based in these states and convince them to move to Texas.

While Governor Perry achieved impressive results for us in Texas, luring dozens of businesses to our state – including Toyota – Governor Scott’s plan overlooks one important factor, which Perry mentioned last week in his farewell address to the legislature: “Our formula for success is simple: keep taxes low, implement smart regulations, provide an educated workforce and stop lawsuit abuse at the courthouse.” It’s the last point – stopping lawsuit abuse – that Scott is forgetting, and it’s an issue that he’ll need to focus on if he plans to bring more jobs to Florida.

Without legal reform, Perry would not have been successful, and businesses never would have migrated to the Lone Star State.  For Rick Scott and other governors seeking to attract businesses and create jobs, it is essential that they prioritize commonsense reform; otherwise, businesses face little protection from the rampant lawsuit abuse seen across the country. Florida has struggled in the last several years, partly because of the overly litigious environment. Between ADA abuse and suspicious relationships between personal injury lawyers and doctors, Floridians are constantly being victimized by lawsuits that take advantage of the legal system rather than acting as a route to justice.

Not all governors have missed this memo. Bruce Rauner, the governor of Illinois, released a plan to help the state create jobs and grow its economy, including adoption of meaningful legal reform.  The plan calls for the amendment of certain Illinois laws to ensure lawsuits are held in logical and fair locations. It is this type of reform that will compel businesses to remain or move to Illinois, creating jobs for the state’s residents. In fact, according to the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, tort reform could increase employment in Illinois by 1 to 2.5 percent.

Governor Rauner is on the road that Perry paved in Texas, but Florida’s Scott seems to have gotten off an exit too soon. Governor Scott must recognize the importance of creating a fair and just litigation environment. Otherwise, he will face a steep, uphill battle trying to persuade businesses to move to Florida.

Opinion: Crazy California courts an issue as Texas companies expand reach

Via the Austin Business Journal

By: Jill Shackelford

Over the past two decades, Texas has created one of the most respected legal climates in the country. From being known as a “judicial hellhole” to becoming a beacon for meaningful reform, Texas has designed a blueprint for spurring economic success, while at the same time maintaining access to our courts and even increasing access to vital services such as health care.

While Texas has continued to pave the way for thoughtful reform, other states have gone the opposite direction, continuing to encourage lawsuit abuse that costs jobs. California, which has been named the nation’s worst “judicial hellhole” two years in a row by the American Tort Reform Association, has consistently seen jobs migrate to the Lone Star State due to California’s ever-increasing cost of doing business. One of the main drivers of the Golden State’s problems is its toxic legal climate.

In short: Texas’ legal climate is at the top of its game, while California’s remains under the thumb of personal injury lawyers.

So, why are we worried?

Abusive lawsuits from California continue to impact Texas-based businesses. From Austin-based Whole Foods Market Inc., which got sucked into California-based lawsuits this past summer, to the ever-popular Austin-based Tito’s Handmade Vodka, which was recently hit with a lawsuit regarding its very name, Texas employers continually are forced to shell out countless dollars fighting lawsuits.

Such detrimental lawsuits illustrate precisely why we must maintain a vigilant presence in and around the Texas Legislature to ensure personal injury lawyers fail in their attempts to turn back the clock on our reforms.

And make no mistake: Some personal injury lawyers want nothing more than to undo these reforms that have hamstrung their ability to profit from questionable legal practices, and they have not wavered in their attempts to funnel millions of dollars into political races across our state.

From funding fellow personal injury lawyers in Republican primaries to recently dumping a cool half-million in a competitive Texas Senate race, some personal injury lawyers are working tirelessly to recreate California’s detrimental legal climate in Texas.

The next time you head to the grocery store, or purchase your favorite mixed drink, remember that your pocketbook is taking a hit because of these lawsuits from the West Coast and elsewhere. Moreover, when you’re in the voting booth, it’s important to know where candidates stand on these important issues. If some personal injury lawyers are successful in their efforts to derail reform, they will make California’s lawsuit lunacy the new normal in Texas.

Jill Shackelford is chairwoman of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse of Central Texas.

CALA: California strikes back – Don’t let personal injury lawyers turn Texas back into a ‘Judicial Hellhole’

Via the Southeast Texas Record

CALA: California strikes back – Don’t let personal injury lawyers turn Texas back into a ‘Judicial Hellhole’
November 24, 2014 12:38 PM

By Jill Shackelford

Over the past two decades, Texas has created one of the most respected and sought after legal climates in the country. From being known as a “Judicial Hellhole,” to becoming a beacon for meaningful reform, Texas has designed a blueprint for spurring economic success, while at the same time maintaining access to our courts and even increasing access to vital services such as healthcare.
Shackelford

While Texas has continued to pave the way for thoughtful reform, other states have gone the opposite way, continuing to encourage lawsuit abuse that costs jobs. California, which has been named the nation’s worst “Judicial Hellhole” two years in a row by the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA), has consistently seen jobs migrate to the Lone Star State due to California’s ever-increasing cost of doing business. One of the main drivers of the Golden State’s problems is its toxic legal climate.

In short: Texas’ legal climate is at the top of its game, while California’s remains under the thumb of personal injury lawyers.

So, why are we worried?

Abusive lawsuits from California continue to impact Texas-based businesses. From Austin-based Whole Foods, which got sucked into California-based lawsuits this past summer, to the ever-popular Austin-based Tito’s Handmade Vodka, which was recently hit with a lawsuit regarding its very name, Texas employers continually are forced to shell out countless dollars fighting lawsuits that many view as absurd.

These detrimental lawsuits illustrate precisely why we must continue to push back against a mentality of nonstop suing, and maintain a vigilant presence in and around the Texas Legislature to ensure personal injury lawyers fail in their attempts to turn back the clock on our successful reforms.

And make no mistake: some personal injury lawyers want nothing more than to undo the reforms that have hamstrung their ability to profit from questionable legal practices, and they have not wavered in their attempts to funnel millions of dollars into political races across our state. From funding fellow personal injury lawyers in Republican primaries, to recently dumping a cool half-million in a competitive Texas Senate race, some personal injury lawyers are working tirelessly to recreate California’s detrimental legal climate in Texas.

The next time you head to the grocery store, or purchase your favorite mixed drink, remember that your pocketbook is taking a larger hit because of these lawsuits from the West Coast and elsewhere. Moreover, when you’re in the voting booth, it’s important to know where you candidate stands on these important issues. If some personal injury lawyers are successful in their efforts to derail reform, they will make California’s lawsuit lunacy the new normal in Texas.

Jill Shackelford is the chairwoman of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse of Central Texas

East El Paso County residents pay more for missing jury duty

Via El Paso Times

People living in far East El Paso County, including the Lower Valley, paid a disproportionate amount in Jury Duty Court costs compared to other portions of the county, according to an analysis by the El Paso Times.

Residents living in San Elizario paid the most jury duty costs per household — about four times more than the rate per household in the Downtown ZIP code around the courthouse, according to an El Paso Times analysis of county data from 2012 to earlier this year, when the county temporarily suspended collecting court costs from people who failed to show up for jury duty.

The state Office of Court Administration said the court cost assessments of up to $300 per person might not be allowed under state law. The county is planning to seek clarification from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott on the issue.

Records obtained by the Times showed that between 2003 and this year, the county’s special Jury Duty Court collected $620,000 in fines from people who failed to show up for jury duty, but also collected more than $6.2 million in court cost assessments from those people.

A Times computer-assisted analysis of Jury Duty Court data showed that people who lived on the fringes of El Paso and outside the city limits were far more likely to pay fines and court costs than El Pasoans living in Central, West Side and Northeast neighborhoods closer to the courthouse.

Residents of ZIP codes in far East El Paso paid at least three times as much in court costs for missing jury duty compared with those living in the 79901 ZIP code, and twice as much as residents living in ZIP codes in West, Central and Northeast El Paso who lived closer to the courthouse.

That disparity could point to transportation or other issues being a barrier to jury duty service.

District Judge Maria Salas-Mendoza, who headed a Council of Judges committee that oversaw changes to the Jury Duty Court policies and procedures, said such a determination would be “speculation.”

But County Commissioner Vincent Perez, who represents the eastern part of the county, disagrees. Many areas of the county outside the city limits lack public transportation.

“Jury duty is an important civic responsibility, and all citizens should take this responsibility seriously,” Perez said. “However, many of the poorest residents in our community who are willing to serve live in neighborhoods that are an hour or more away from the courthouse, and there are often no public transportation options.”

When asked if judges are looking at the reasons why people don’t show up for jury duty and for possible solutions to the problem, Salas-Mendoza said: “Every single case gets that kind of consideration. No one is ever held in contempt without consideration of their reasons.”

Salas-Mendoza also said it would be “incorrect to assume that the reason that all persons in one area code were found in contempt had the same reason for failing to appear,” and the Council of Judges hasn’t examined any trend in lack of transportation among those who fail to report for jury duty.

The Council of Judges is working with El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal on drafting a request for a Texas attorney general’s opinion on whether it is legal to assess jury duty contempt court costs, and whether those costs should follow a criminal or civil case fee schedule.

In June, visiting state Judge Jerry Woodard, 83, who had presided over the Jury Duty Court, issued an order stopping the practice of collecting about $300 in court costs from people found in contempt of court for failing to answer a jury duty summons.

The order was made after questions arose surrounding the legality of assessing the court costs. Woodard retired shortly after issuing the order.

Many times, court costs were levied on top of fines of up to $1,000, but lawyers with the state’s Office of Court Administration recently told county officials that it may not be legal to charge court costs for jury duty contempt citations.

After questions about the legality of those court costs arose, many people began asking about possible reimbursements.

In 2012, San Elizario resident Martha Dominguez was scheduled for jury duty. Dominguez, who works as a part-time secretary at San Lorenzo Church in Clint, said she forgot she had jury duty. She called a half-hour before she was scheduled to appear in court to tell them that she was not going to make it on time.

Dominguez, 59, said she had a car, but that she could not have driven from San Elizario to the Downtown courthouse in time for jury duty.

Three months later Dominguez said she had to pay $292 in fines and court costs.

“I’m not very happy about it because I did try to call that morning. I did try to tell them that I wasn’t able to go because of the time that I called, and the distance,” Dominguez said.

Dominguez, who worked for the Ysleta Independent School District for 36 years before retiring in 2009, said that if the court system allows it, she would seek reimbursement.

“They were calling every six months and I always showed up,” Dominguez said about her jury duty service before she was fined. “I think they should be nicer to first offenders.”

Irazulema Armendariz, 33, said she lost her paperwork when she had jury duty two years ago.

“I couldn’t make it because I lost the paperwork. I forgot the date and everything,” said the Fabens resident.

“For me, it (the fine) was an exaggeration of money because for me it’s a lot of money to charge just because you forgot to go or you misplaced your papers,” Armendariz said. According to an analysis by the El Paso Times, Armendariz had fines and court costs totaling $292.

Armendariz is a volunteer at Fabens Elementary and said she relies on her husband for income. She added that with three children, it’s easy to forget things. She added that she would have appreciated a follow up courtesy call to remind her of her scheduled jury duty.

“I told them I do deserve the fine, but it was too much to pay,” she said.

El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar said Commissioners Court won’t make any decision on refunds until they see the attorney general’s opinion, which could take months.

“As people call to inquire, all we can do is document their information while we wait for the opinion,” Escobar said.

She said commissioners have yet to receive a copy of the revised Jury Duty Court policies and procedures.

Last month, presiding Judge Stephen Ables of the Sixth Administrative Judicial Region appointed visiting judge Max Higgs, a former El Paso County probate judge, to replace Woodard. Salas-Mendoza said court costs are still not being assessed.

According to the new Jury Duty Court policies and procedures, people who don’t report to jury duty and don’t fill out a jury duty questionnaire will be summoned to a “show cause” hearing, where they will complete the questionnaire and be given a new jury duty date.

If people do not show up to the show cause hearing, a judge may issue a warrant for their arrest.

Salas-Mendoza said Jury Duty Court staff are keeping track of people who don’t fill out questionnaires but show up for jury duty, and the number of times people have skipped out on jury duty.

Perez said he is concerned that as the county collected millions of dollars in court costs, court-appointed attorneys have been seeking a pay raise.

“While these high fees were being imposed, many of the same judges who support the jury court were advocating for a pay increase (to) $90 an hour for judge-appointed attorneys that is going to cost taxpayers an additional $2 million a year, and likely result in a tax increase if no cuts are made,” Perez said. “The public needs to understand that many of the leaders they elect, such as judges and others, also make financial decisions that impact the community.”

According to a recent study by Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse of Central Texas, El Paso County has one of the highest jury duty participation rates in Texas. Last year, about 33 percent of people eligible for jury duty participated in jury service compared with nearly 29 percent in Bexar County and 18.5 percent in Dallas County, where a jury duty court similar to the one in El Paso has been proposed.

Adriana M. Chávez may be reached at 546-6117.

Jury duty is something we must not shirk

Via The Eagle

By EDDIE LUCIO Jr.

Special to The Eagle

Texans love a tall tale, and when it comes to jury service there’s usually no shortage of stories and excuses for why people cannot serve.

Yet, it’s the right to a trial by a jury of our peers that is one of the most important freedoms all Americans enjoy. Jurors make sure that our justice system runs efficiently and how it was intended.

And, while past voter surveys suggest the vast majority of Texans — as high as 90 percent — believe that serving on a jury is important, a recent study from legal watchdogs Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse has found that Texas jurors simply are not showing up to their summons.

The study looked at juror participation rates in 13 Texas counties over the past four years. The findings point to a widespread problem in Texas with low rates of participation in jury service.

In some Texas counties, the study found as many as 80 percent of those summoned for jury duty fail to show up. Most of the counties that responded to the survey showed jury participation hovering around 20 percent and 30 percent. Montgomery County, just north of Houston, reported a paltry 14 percent participation rate, and Harris County wasn’t much better at 26.54 percent — the lowest rates in the Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse study.

Sadly, far too many Texans have been walking away from their jury service responsibilities.

Still, there are some bright spots. Cameron County, in each of the past four years, reported juror participation rates more than 70 percent. Certainly, at least some Texans appreciate the importance of jury service.

By returning an impartial verdict, jurors reaffirm Founding Father Thomas Jefferson’s vision for a democratic America, which included the right to a trial by jury, “the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” Thomas Jefferson was as right then as his words are today: Jurors improve transparency and make sure that all valid court cases receive fair and equal consideration.

Previous efforts to encourage participation, including higher rates of juror pay, aren’t solving the problem, either. Increases and cuts in juror pay do not seem to have an overall effect on juror participation in the counties surveyed. Even when jurors are paid more, those summoned still are attempting to get out of an important civil duty that’s necessary to preserve the integrity of our judicial system.

Recently, Gov. Rick Perry declared Juror Appreciation Month, urging citizens not to undervalue that right and shirk responsibility when they are called to serve.

Let’s be clear. Jury participation shouldn’t be about income, pay or excuses. Simply put, our justice system doesn’t work without people — all citizens — to serve on a jury. It’s the old saying, “You can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?” 

No excuses. It’s time for Texans to serve.

• Eddie Lucio Jr. is the state Senator for District 27, which is composed of Cameron, Kenedy, Kleberg, Willacy and part of Hidalgo counties.

Low juror turnout a problem in Texas

Via the San Antonio Express News

SAN ANTONIO — Jury duty is a privilege that often inspires dread.

For many, the only thing worse than a bill in the mail is a jury summons, and the first instinct is to seek some way to get out of it. That mind-set needs to change or it could undermine our court system.

Some Texas counties report that as many as 80 percent of those summoned for jury duty report to the courthouse, according to a recent study released by Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse. In Bexar County, the number of people reporting for jury duty has dropped from 46.3 percent in 2001 to 28.5 percent in 2013.

Jury summonses are mailed almost every week in Bexar County, and in 2013 the central jury room sent 232,679 summonses. About 45,000 of them were undeliverable because the addresses, culled from Texas Department of Public Safety and voter registration records, were invalid. Thousands of potential jurors were excused or disqualified from jury service after providing documentation showing they were not U.S. citizens, were attending school or opted to take an elderly exemption.

Potential jurors who ignore a call to service can end up in jail or be fined.

Most of us will never need the service of a jury. But if we were involved in a civil dispute or charged with a crime, we would want a fair and impartial group of our peers sitting in the jury box. Ignoring our civic duty should never be considered an option.

Most people summoned to be in a jury pool will not be selected to hear a case, but their presence is key to the process. Many cases end in plea bargains and settlements, but the presence of waiting jurors is sometimes needed to motivate such agreements.

Jurors play a vital role in our system. It is crucial to stop apathy from undermining the process.

Low Texas jury duty participation widespread problem

Via KETK

POSTED: Monday, July 14, 2014 – 10:51pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 – 3:34pm

Tyler, Texas (KETK) — A new study conducted by the “Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse”, finds low rates of jury service participation is a widespread problem across Texas. In the 13 counties researched, 80 percent of people summoned for jury duty, don’t show up.

KETK spoke with Smith County District 7 Judge, Kerry Russell, who said, “Some counties do have trouble getting enough jurors to show up, they can’t have all the jury trials they need to have because they don’t have sufficient jurors”. This is the case even though nearly 90 percent of Texans still believe serving on a jury is important.

We spoke with locals who agreed, and said, “Well it might be a little inconvenient but I think it’s important to take the time and do it”. Another said, ” If people don’t do it then how would you have a jury of your peers?” The majority of residents we spoke with, participated in jury duty three times.

However, in Smith County, from February through July of 2014, jury participation remains consistent. Russell explained, “The number of summons that Smith county sent out in that period was over 36,000 summons. You end up with just a little over 5,000 that just did not show up”. According to numbers from the Smith County Jury Coordinator, Lisa Bennett, 7,737 people reported for duty, 2,468 were panelists, 377 were excused, and 2,493 rescheduled.

In order to combat the issue, Governor Rick Perry declared July, “Juror Appreciation Month”. Russell said, “It is we the people. You know the court system only works when the people show up to help us”.

For a breakdown of the jury duty statistics, click: http://www.tala.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Texas-Jury-Participation-Final-Report-FINAL1.pdf