The NYT reports that the recession is taking a big toll on those called for jury duty.
Few people like jury duty. But for many people squeezed by the recession, a jury summons holds a new fear: financial ruin.
Judges and court officials around the country say they are seeing the impact of the recession in their courtrooms. While no one keeps overall statistics on juror excuses, those closest to the process say that in many parts of the country an increasing number of jurors are trying to get out of service, forcing courts to call an ever larger pool of jurors to meet their needs.
Ranae Johnson, the jury commissioner for Bonneville County, Idaho, said that she typically summoned 400 people for each two-week term of service, but that lately she “had to pop it up to 500” because of rising numbers of economic hardship claims. “We’re hearing it more than we used to,” Ms. Johnson said. “A lot more.”
She read from her notes of recent calls. “I was laid off, have no car, no job and no friends that can even bring me there,” one caller had argued. Another said, “I cannot even afford the gas to have to come down there.”
Jane Hybarger, the jury administrator for the United States District Court in Las Vegas, said the pleas she was hearing were more urgent, even desperate.
“Now I’m hearing people who are living day to day, who are months behind in their mortgage,” Ms. Hybarger said. “There’s tears in their voice — they don’t know how they’re going to put food on the table.”
This is the unseen face of the recession. The idea that we are in some sort of recovery is laughable to many who are just getting by or worse slowly sinking. The statistics are masking the pain as many turn to whatever will pay a few dollars just in hopes of staving off the impending crisis.
The reality is that the wolf is slowly breaking down the door and hundreds of thousands if not millions are succumbing. Working several jobs, surviving on the basics, the backbone of the country is slowly collapsing. These aren’t the marginally employable, rather educated professionals who because of age or dint of occupation find themselves outside looking in and increasingly most likely to stay in that position for the remainder of their lives.
This country will return to some sort of normal, probably more like it was before than is good for us. Sadly, there is going to be a sizeable minority that have become permanently disenfranchised. These are not of the type that will attract federal dollars to put their lives back on track, in fact their lives have gone permanently off the track. The world will keep on spinning and many will prosper but this recession is going to leave some wrecked lives forever.