Dodging their duty? Some Lee, Collier residents skip jury duty

Andre Senior

Dodging their duty? Some Lee, Collier residents skip jury duty

CREATED May. 21, 2012

 NAPLES - Have you ever wondered what would happened if you do not show up for jury duty?

 
Fox 4 has been investigating how Lee & Collier Counties deal with those who dodge their duty and you might be surprised to hear how it is handled. 
 
“As an American I feel its my obligation to do and render a fair and honest opinion,” Ailderdes Cornelious, who was among the more than one hundred people waiting for their number to be called at the Lee County Justice Center courthouse for jury duty one Tuesday morning in May.
 
But of the people who appeared at the Lee County courthouse to submit to their civil obligation, there are some who decided not to attend and did not notify the court.
 
“Out of those people summoned, we have a certain percentage of those who show up or available to show up for those trials, said Linda Doggett, COO of Lee Clerk of Courts.
 
Skipping jury duty is against the law and punishable by a $100 fine, but Lee County has not issued a fine in at least five years.
 
In Your Corner checked the month of April and found that of the more than 10,000 potential jurors called, around 10% of them did not bother to show up. 
 
So, why won’t those no-shows face fines?
 
"One reason for that is due to our low cost process, where we don't use certified mail, and therefore cannot verify that someone has received the summons," said Doggett in an email.
 
Doggett also points out that Southwest Florida is popular with part-time residents who only reside here during the winter months, which is one of the factors for not actively pursing those who skip out.
 
There is a similar situation in Collier County, where in the month of April, the number of people ranged from 5-to-8%.
 
Clerk of Courts Dwight Brock says no one has been punished in the district in several years as well - and despite the numbers, insists that the situation does not currently warrant actively pursing offenders.
 
“Collier County does not have a problem with people appearing for jury duty.”
 
As is the case in Lee County, Brock cites seasonal residents as a reason for the no-show rate, but says that does not mean the court doesn’t keep a record of people who dodge their civic duty.
 
“The chief judge gets a list from us of everybody that doesn't show up.”
 
Brock’s office did supply Fox 4 with a list of offenders for the month of April.
 
We went to ask them about not showing up for jury duty, but in most cases we was told that the person we were looking for wasn’t home or that they no longer lived at the listed address.
 
So, what would it take for juror duty skippers to be punished for not showing up for something they are required to do?
 
In short, unless the judge had a massive shortage of potential jurors, it appears the issue will likely go unaddressed.
 
“You're taking a risk if you're trying to beat the system, you're always taking that risk,” Brock insisted.
 
In Lee County, Doggett says they ensure they have enough people by essentially overbooking the number of jurors they are looking for.
 
The amount of no-shows could be seen as small compared to Broward County, where that number is reported to be around 40%, including those who are excused.
 
County court officials there have started to combat the issue by filing misdemeanor charges against jurors with unexcused absences, which could result in fines of up to $250 and possible jail time.
 

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