Thursday, May 5, 2016

Texas judges, district clerks reflect on importance of jury service

Originally published by Jillian Beck.


As Texas celebrates its inaugural Jury Appreciation Week, we asked judges and district clerks across the state to describe why they believe jury service is important.


Brandon Birmingham292nd Judicial District Judge Brandon Birmingham
Dallas County
“Jurors provide the voice of the people, setting the standards of punishment, decency, and rehabilitation for the judges and lawyers involved in the criminal justice system. They protect average citizens against over-zealous prosecutors on the one hand, and hold the guilty accountable despite insidious defenses on the other. Jurors ensure fairness in the quest for truth, transparency in the fight over liberty, and they are the backbones of justice and order in our civilized society.”



Ellis County District Clerk Melanie Reed
“Next to serving in the armed forces, jury service is a privilege we, as citizens of the United States, have to give back to our country. Jurors help to protect our rights and freedoms and (the right to a trial by jury) is one of the foundations our country was built on.”


duggan423rd Judicial District Judge Chris Duggan
Bastrop County
“The right to a jury trial is one of the most important constitutional rights that we have in this country. The right to ask for and receive a jury trial—criminal or civil—that is heard and decided by the members of the community is an incredible right. Jury service gives people direct access to and a voice in the justice system. I can’t imagine living in a place that doesn’t provide this fundamental right.”



120th Judicial District Judge Maria Salas-Mendoza
El Paso County
“As the cornerstone of the American justice system, the right to a jury trial can only be protected by the willingness of our citizens to serve on juries. Jurors play an integral part in protecting that right and the rights of all litigants, including the government and the accused.”


brandymuellerTravis County Court at Law No. 6 Judge Brandy Mueller
“One of the most compelling things about presiding over a trial is observing a jury at work. I have not once seen a jury that was not fully committed to doing their job. Yes, panelists don’t usually look excited at the close of voir dire when they hear their name and learn they’ve made it on the jury. But by the time these jurors are sworn in, their dedication to the process is outwardly apparent. The concept of citizens being summoned at random and empowered with the most important role in our legal system is fundamentally American. This notion is incomprehensible to many who live outside the U.S. Travis County is proud of a high juror participation rate, and I am working with our clerk, Velva Price, on a jury appreciation initiative with the aim of both making the process easier for jurors, as well as showing jurors our appreciation.”


Nancy_YoungFannin County District Clerk Nancy Young
“We are a country made up of diverse people. Without individuals willing to serve as jurors, we could not ensure fair and impartial decisions.”


kemperwilliams135th Judicial District Judge Kemper Stephen Williams
Calhoun, DeWitt, Goliad, Jackson, Refugio, and Victoria counties
“As a general jurisdiction district judge for the past 20 years—presiding over 250 jury trials—I can attest to the importance of jury service. Many times cases cannot be resolved until the last minute when the parties see a large group of their peers waiting in the hall ready (albeit involuntarily) to pass judgment. The system is not perfect but, as they say, it is the best system devised by man.”


ClarissaWebsterEctor County District Clerk Clarissa Webster
“As American citizens, we enjoy many highly valued rights and privileges. Jury service takes one such basic right—a trial by the jury of your peers—and turns the theory into a factual reality. Without jurors, the fabric and foundation of our American judicial system would disintegrate. Jury service is a vital civic duty and should be viewed as an honorable and noble use of a person’s time. I believe most Americans will agree wholeheartedly that we live in the best nation in the world. Our judicial system is one of the monumental things that sets this nation apart. As the district clerk of Ector County, I am proud and honored to assist the district and county courts with our local jury processes. And yes, when summoned, I have proudly participated and served as a potential juror and look forward to my next opportunity to do so again.”


jenniferbennett265th Judicial District Judge Jennifer Bennett
Dallas County
“I am always incredibly thankful to our jurors, who take time from their busy lives to come for jury duty. I tell all my jury panels that other than serving their country, that voting and jury duty are the most important civic duties that they can participate in.”


CherylJonesBrown County District Clerk Cheryl Jones
“Jurors are crucial to fair and impartial justice. I believe that jurors represent the voice of the people in most cases. The willingness of people within a community to serve in the jury process is vital. My sincerest of appreciation goes out to each and every person that shows up for jury service. I hope each and every potential juror leaves a little more educated about the entire legal process.”


Judge Hale's picture406th Judicial District Judge Oscar Hale Jr.
Webb County
“As a licensed attorney for almost 21 years and having served as a jurist for the past 12 years, I have had the privilege of participating in hundreds of jury trials. In every instance, I witnessed the wheels of justice in motion as both criminal and civil cases were resolved with ‘just’ jury verdicts. In some cases, trials were avoided and disputes were resolved simply because a jury was selected and impaneled. Our American system of justice works, and it works because of the dedication and commitment of our jurors, who continuously and proudly honor their civic duty. To all who have served in our jury system, I say, ‘Thank you for your service and thank you for ensuring that our justice system always prevails!’”


Curated by Texas Bar Today. Follow us on Twitter @texasbartoday.

from Texas Bar Today
via Abogado Aly Website

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