Jury Duty, Rudeness, State Judges, Trials

A Sign That You Should Always Show Up for Jury Duty

A game that nobody wants to play.

Even though serving on a jury is considered an important civic duty, people in this country seem to loathe the mere idea of being forced to do it. After all, because of jury duty, people have to miss work — hell, some people even get fired because of it.

And even though jury duty is something that is required by law, instead of just doing it, people would rather make jokes about others being too dumb to get out of it.

One judge in Indiana is well aware of that fact, and he’s on a mission to get people to serve willingly, lest they be forced to face some embarrassing consequences….

Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr. is a stickler for the rules. If you’ve been served with a summons for jury duty, he’s the kind of guy who expects you to show up — or else. One prospective juror recently felt Stefaniak’s wrath after he was ordered to return to court after lunch, and conveniently forgot to do so.

But whose fault was it? His mother’s. The Post-Tribune has the details of this sad accusation:

“I’ve never been in trouble before,” said the 22-year-old man, who told the judge his mother “was about to lose her job” and acknowledged he didn’t follow the judge’s instructions during the jury selection process.

“Help me understand what it is about my words, ‘You’ve got to come back,’ that you don’t understand?” Stefaniak said. ”I’m at a loss to understand why you did what you did.”

“I wasn’t really paying attention,” said the man, who is unemployed and whose mother didn’t lose her job.

Stefaniak said the man was “the very person who should be on a jury. You’ve got nothing else to do.”

And boom goes the dynamite. Maybe if this dude was a better listener, he wouldn’t be unemployed. But not to worry, because Stefaniak gave this prospective juror a temporary job. This poor guy has to show up to court at 7:30 a.m. on the next two jury-selection days, January 30 and February 6, and parade around wearing a sign that reads, “I failed to appear for jury duty.”

This isn’t the first time Stefaniak has used this type of punishment for jury duty slackers. Back in 2008, the judge forced another young man, Michael Leibengood, to do the exact same thing after he failed to show up for the second day of a murder trial. According to the Chicago Tribune, Stefaniak wants people to know that when it comes to their civic duty, they’ve got to get it right, or pay the price:

“It’s a little bit humiliating, and I made him do it at a time when other jurors were showing up. Those people that are dragging themselves to get here see the consequences if you don’t show up.”

Because in Indiana, humiliation is apparently a fate worse than jail. Bonus points to Judge Stefaniak if the new guy’s sign is of the sandwich board variety — because that would be an even better form of public shaming.

Potential juror who left before trial to be punished [Post-Tribune]
Judge Orders Jury Duty Slacker to Carry Sign in Front of Courthouse [ABA Journal]
Absent juror’s punishment meant as a warning [Chicago Tribune]
Ind. Judge Gives No-Show Juror a Sign, Literally [ABA Journal]

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